The Quebec bishops say support for end-of-life care is more humane than allowing physician-assisted suicide. CNS photo/Gregory A. Shemitz

Quebec bishops, COLF oppose euthanasia recommendation

  • April 4, 2012

OTTAWA - Quebec’s Catholic bishops and the Catholic Organization for Life and Family (COLF) have expressed opposition to a Quebec committee’s recommendation to allow euthanasia under limited circumstances.

“While we are pleased that members of the commission recommend greater access to palliative care for all people, we disagree with the recommendations to change laws to recognize physician-assisted dying as appropriate end-of-life care,” the Assembly of Catholic Bishops of Quebec said in a statement. “Changing the terms ‘assisted suicide’ and ‘euthanasia’ to ‘physician-assisted dying’ does not change reality.”

COLF said it “vigourously denounces” many of the recommendations of the Select Committee on Dying with Dignity and urged voters to “express their discontent” to the Jean Charest government. The committee has held public hearings across the province to measure public opinion on end-of-life care.

“By opening the door to ‘euthanasia as physician-assisted death,’ the committee chose to ignore the inherent dignity of the human person and the inestimable value of human life,” said COLF in an April 2 release.

“It also ignores the voices of two-thirds of the 427 groups and individuals who spoke during the public hearings last year, giving more weight to the position of pressure groups calling for the decriminalization of euthanasia and another practice which is intimately linked — assisted suicide.”

The Quebec bishops reiterated the submission they had made to the committee in 2010 calling for recommendations that support end-of-life care that is the most humane and humanizing possible. It said allowing natural death to occur at the right time, not beforehand through euthanasia or assisted suicide, or afterwards through aggressive treatment.

“This position for the common good does not mean we are insensitive to the suffering of many of our brothers and sisters,” the bishops said.

COLF welcomed the palliative care recommendations, arguing all citizens are entitled to effective pain treatment and compassionate end-of-life care.

“However, the report suggests the removal from the Criminal Code of protections for some of our most defenseless citizens,” COLF said. “This would make it possible for authorities to ignore the killing of disabled, elderly or otherwise vulnerable persons (even against their wills).”

COLF pointed out that countries that have legalized euthanasia and assisted suicide have seen abuses even when safeguards are in place to the point that some have been “pressured to commit suicide in the name of cost efficiency.”

“This danger is real and likely to increase as health care dollars shrink and demand for services swell,” COLF said.

The organization, which is co-funded by the Knights of Columbus and the Canadian Conference of Catholic Bishops, warned implementing the euthanasia recommendation would give physicians unprecedented and “alarming power to end the lives of their patients.”

“Doctors opposed to euthanasia for reasons of conscience will be obliged to refer the patient seeking death to a physician willing to end their life,” COLF said.

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