Sr. Nuala Kenny in front of an icon of St. Joseph as she speaks at Novalis’ Living with Christ Appreciation Night Oct. 4 at Toronto’s Regis College. Photo by Michael Swan

Euthanasia misses the message

  • October 16, 2017

Medicine in Canada has been undermined by the most permissive assisted dying laws in the world, physician and medical ethicist Sr. Nuala Kenny told about 150 Catholics gathered at the University of Toronto’s Regis College on Oct. 4.

We made the Belgians and the Swiss look uptight,” Kenny said.

Kenny was introducing her new book, Rediscovering the Art of Dying, at the annual Living With Christ Reader Appreciation Night sponsored by her publisher, Novalis.

Kenny addressed her talk specifically to Catholics, whom she fears do not grasp how assisted suicide and voluntary euthanasia cut the legs out from under a Christian understanding of suffering and death rooted in the Gospel story of Christ’s passion and resurrection.

Suffering, the loss of meaning in life, a loss of control, regret and fear are not medical problems and prescribing a controlled, timed death does not actually solve them, said Kenny. By putting death on the table as one of the patient’s medical options, the doctor eliminates the patient, not the problem, Kenny said.

“There is no prescription for human suffering. There is no medication, no therapy,” she said.

Though often portrayed as a solution to intractable, agonizing, life-limiting pain, most requests for assisted dying have nothing to do with pain. Patients are rather looking to doctors for answers to existential problems that come with loss of command over one’s own circumstances, she said.

If there’s a Christian answer to the Canadian legal regime now surrounding death, it has to come from Christian communities banding together to care for the frail and vulnerable in ordinary ways — in friendship, neighbourliness and an active instinct for communion, she said.

“We’ve forgotten the baptismal call on each and every one of us for the spiritual and corporal works of mercy,” Kenny said.

Speaking in front of a giant icon of St. Joseph, Kenny urged her mostly elderly and very Catholic audience to remember that St. Joseph is the patron saint of a good death.

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