Canadian Conference of Catholic Bishops’ president Archbishop Richard Gagnon

MAiD ‘nothing less than murder’: faith leaders

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  • October 22, 2020

OTTAWA -- Canada’s Catholic bishops have joined with religious leaders nationwide to denounce the federal government’s plan to make it easier to obtain a medically-assisted suicide.

In an open letter to Canadians, more than 50 religious leaders in Canada, including Canadian Conference of Catholic Bishops’ president Archbishop Richard Gagnon, argue against Bill C-7 and the expansion of who qualifies for a legally-sanctioned suicide.

“It perplexes our collective minds that we have come so far as a society yet, at the same time, have so seriously regressed in the manner that we treat the weak, the ill and the marginalized,” said the letter released Oct. 5.

“We the undersigned remain inalterably opposed to euthanasia and assisted suicide, the intentional killing of human beings, euphemistically being called ‘Medical Assistance in Dying’ (MAiD), but which is more accurately, and tragically, nothing less than murder.”

The bill would remove the requirement for a person’s natural death to be reasonably foreseeable in order to be eligible for MAID, introduces a two-track approach to procedural safeguards based on whether a person’s natural death is reasonably foreseeable, excludes eligibility for individuals suffering solely from mental illness, allows a waiver of final consent for eligible persons whose natural death is reasonably foreseeable and who may lose capacity to consent before MAID can be provided, and expands data collection about MAiD in Canada

The effort by the wide-range of religious leaders to win over the hearts and minds of Canadians comes as other civic groups against the expansion of the MAiD also speak out against Bill C-7. The MAiD to Mad campaign, which had garnered the signatures of more than 700 Canadian doctors by Oct. 20, is hoping to influence MPs from all political parties as the proposed changes are debated in the House of Commons.

“As medical doctors, we feel compelled to voice our dismay at how individuals who have little lived experience of the realities involved in the everyday practice of medicine suddenly and fundamentally changed the nature of medicine by decriminalizing euthanasia and assisted suicide,” MAiD to Mad said in an Oct. 19 statement, noting safeguards put in place when the procedure was legalized in 2016 are being removed.

“The reckless removal of safeguards previously deemed essential will place desperately vulnerable patients directly in harm’s way and may cost them their very lives. … Under the new bill, an individual whose natural death is considered to be ‘reasonably foreseeable’ could be diagnosed, assessed and euthanized all in one day. We are very concerned that removing the 10-day reflection period and other safeguards will lead to an increase in coerced or tragically unconsidered deaths.”

According to the faith leaders’ letter, which the Catholic bishops played a key role in drafting, the federal government’s effort to change the MAiD system to comply with a 2019 Quebec court decision that said the provision that a person’s death already be “reasonably foreseeable” was too restrictive and does not reflect “Canadian values.”

“Palliative care addresses pain in a loving and caring environment, wherein people go out of their way to offer comfort and solace. It makes everyone into a better person,” the faith leaders’ letter said.

“Palliative care is a viable and life-affirming alternative, which does not discriminate against any group and which gives expression to the ethics of caring and inclusion, hallmarks of Canadian values,” it continued, adding, “how precipitous a fall we have made into a moral abyss. This is not what we, as Canadians, have in mind when thinking of ourselves as a caring, compassionate and inclusive society.”

A statement released by the federal government Oct. 5 said Bill C-7 “reflects emerging societal consensus and was informed by views and concerns raised by Canadians, experts, practitioners, stakeholders, Indigenous groups, as well as provinces and territories during the public consultations undertaken in January and February 2020.”

Public opinion polls have consistently shown Canadians support MAiD, including a 2020 Angus Reid Institute survey that indicated “four-in-five (80 per cent) of Canadians now say it should be easier to make their own end-of-life decisions, compared to nearly three-quarters (73 per cent) in 2016.”

The Catholic Church’s position has consistently been that on issues of right and wrong and the sanctity of human life, popular opinion should not matter.

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