Alex Schadenberg

Rights league vows to fight assisted suicide

  • December 26, 2015

TORONTO - The fight over assisted suicide isn’t over yet. A day after a government advisory group released 43 recommendations calling for wide access to assisted suicide, the Catholic Civil Rights League (CCRL) held its annual general meeting Dec. 15 to discuss its concerns and plans for the year ahead, a year when it seems likely Canada will legalized assisted suicide.

“More than anything, (the meeting) was a bout the stark reality in Canada now,” said Christian Elia, CCRL e xecutive director. “Now that Canada’s on a regime of euthanasia which will make it probably the most liberal country for mercy killing in the world... It’s very important that we understand the battle that we have as we move forward.”

Elia called the final report released by the Provincial-Territorial Expert Advisory Group on Dec. 14 “completely unacceptable.” Moving forward, Elia said CCRL must work to continue to be the Catholic voice of dissent in the public sphere.

He said what was most troubling about the report is that it was written as though the panel spoke unanimously. Even with bioethicist Sr. Nuala Kenny of the Sisters of Charity on the panel, Elia said it is not enough for the government to claim that Catholics have been consulted in the process.

“It’s impossible to be Catholic and to go along with any part of assisted death and euthanasia,” said Elia. “We have to dissent, dissent and dissent until the very end.”

Elia encourages people to attend the in-person consultation meetings the Ontario government is hosting in nine communities in January. Those who will not be able to attend can also access the online form at

“Our advocacy must continue,” said Alex Schadenberg, executive director of Euthanasia Prevention Coalition. “Canadians, for the most part, have no idea what this is going to mean and the fact is that we need more and more and more to explain to Canadians why this is absolutely wrong.”

Schadenberg was the guest speaker at the CCRL meeting. He said this is a very crucial time because this is when the public will be most open to discussion.

“Once this becomes common, people will start thinking well that’s sort of normal,” he said. “And at this moment in history, they’re still saying, ‘I’m not quite sure. Tell me more. I need to know more about this.’ ” Schadenberg said his greatest concern is protecting physicians’ conscience rights and educating the public about its implications for health care professionals.

“With the issue of conscience rights, a lot of people talk to me about, if we’re going to have euthanasia, let’s have it with safeguards... but the problem is that most safeguards are really an illusion at best,” he said. “The one safeguard that truly is a safeguard is the fact that a doctor can say ‘no’ to you... It’s suddenly up for grabs when conscience rights are removed.”

Schadenberg spoke in detail about the history of euthanasia laws around the world. In the past, only physicians were involved in assisted death because it makes for a more controlled environment. With the panel’s recommendation that nurses should also be involved with assisted death, Schadenberg said nurses will now find themselves in a very difficult legal position.

“Doctors historically have always had the right to say ‘yes’ or ‘no.’ Nurses have always had the right to say ‘yes’ or ‘no,’ but it’s all sort of nuanced,” he said. “If a doctor’s saying something needs to be done and you’re a nurse, you need to carry this out.”

The coalition is working with Compassionate Community Care to provide a hotline where people can seek legal advice and learn more about their rights in terms of medical treatment.

“I think that (the hotline) is showing that there is an incredible need because a lot of people have no idea what their rights are,” said Schadenberg. “It also allows us to be able to go to the court with a very important case and say, ‘Hey, this is a legitimate concern and we need to make sure that people are protected in this area.’ ”

Compassionate Community Care can be reached at 1-855-675- 8749.

Comments (1)

This comment was minimized by the moderator on the site

I'm not catholic nor is my doctor. Why must you interfere with something that doesn't concern you? If your group is for rights, than leave people the right to decide whether they choose to utilize the powers given in this law. You didn't consult...

I'm not catholic nor is my doctor. Why must you interfere with something that doesn't concern you? If your group is for rights, than leave people the right to decide whether they choose to utilize the powers given in this law. You didn't consult me before you came out against this law!

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