Catholic health care workers must engagement with tensions caused by medical aid in dying with their Christian perspectives. Photo/Pixabay

Tensions caused by euthanasia is part of job dealing with dying

  • February 15, 2017

Euthanasia is here to stay, so Catholic health care workers must rely on their Christian perspectives to guide them through the tensions caused by medical aid in dying.

“Catholic health care must engage tensions in health care as a mission-driven organization that actually changes the conversations and doesn’t run from the tensions,” said Christopher De Bono, vice president of mission, ethics and spirituality at Providence Health Care in British Columbia. De Bono spoke on the topic of Tensions in Health Care as part of the Newman Centre’s Faith and Reason lecture series on Feb. 9 at St. Thomas Aquinas Church.

“Catholic health care offers an important conversation to this issue and that conversation has to do with our perceptive of life, our perspective of death, our perspectives on what care means and what journeying with people means.”

Generating those conversations, particularly with patients and their family, will require ensuring staff are equipped to handle the discussion, he added.

“Where MAID (medical aid in dying) decisions are being made, it is probably good to have a Catholic perspective,” he said. “We (must) educate our staff not to be afraid of that conversation but to say ‘tell me about your suffering, tell me about your pain and let’s see if we can find a way to work through that.’ Tension, when engaged, can ... bring about a certain confidence for life, a certain discovery for life.”

Although these conversations seek to curb the number of lives lost to medical aid in dying, they should begin long before a patient requests the fatal procedure, he said.

“We are learning that the longer we are with people and can build relationships, often the requests for MAID go down,” De Bono said, noting that in eight months Providence staff encountered 20 requests to be euthanized.

On Feb. 6, 2015 the Supreme Court of Canada struck down Canada’s pre-existing restriction of physician-assisted suicide, welcoming in what many have called a culture of death.

De Bono said that among the most easily swayed away from requesting their own demise are those who are simply exploring if medical aid in dying is an option, as well as those who take the lethal drug home “just in case things get really bad.”

De Bono said that, according to data, about 30 per cent of patients who are prescribed deadly drugs in Oregon — the first state in America to offer legalized medical aid in dying in 1994 — never take the medication.

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