A woman holds a sign during a rally against physician-assisted suicide on Parliament Hill in Ottawa in this file photo. CNS photo/Art Babych

Bishops demand anti-MAiD voices be heard

  • May 13, 2022

Canada’s Catholic bishops, in a submission to the federal committee exploring the expansion of Medical Assistance in Dying (MAiD), reiterated their opposition to assisted suicide and called for more safeguards for the vulnerable.

“The legal expansion of eligibility for MAiD will only serve to erode the respect for the essential dignity of the human person and the common good of society, which must be committed to protecting and safeguarding vulnerable individuals and those without a voice,” said the submission, signed by CCCB president Bishop Raymond Poisson.

The bishops released the brief May 12 and made four proposals to the committee: that it reject expanding eligibility criteria for MAiD; that the clause excluding mental illness not be removed and more funding made available for mental health supports; that medical professionals’ conscience rights be protected; and that more support and access to palliative care be made available.

The bishops also stressed that authentic dialogue is needed and different perspectives need to be taken into account.

“Unfortunately, on the question of euthanasia and assisted suicide, the ethical perspectives brought forth by religious voices and other community groups with differing values, even after repeated submissions, have received little to no consideration from the Canadian government,” the bishops said. “This is unacceptable as it weakens and erodes the democratic society Canada claims to be.”

The Special Joint Committee on Medical Assistance in Dying is reviewing the provisions and application of the Criminal Code surrounding assisted dying, which has been legal in Canada since June 2016. Originally only available to people whose death was “reasonably foreseeable,” Canadian courts have since struck down that clause in the legislation and expanded access.

The federal government is exploring expanding the service even further, including to people with mental illness, mature minors and more.

The bishops argued that people “in unique and complex situations of human fragility” won’t be protected by expanded access to MAiD and that “it will pose significant threats to the right to life and will deter the provision of access to viable alternatives which truly promote the dignity of the human person.”

And as the COVID-19 pandemic has shown the importance of “reaching out to those on the margins of society and in vulnerable stages or circumstances,” the bishops continued, no one should be seen as a burden to society.

“Compassion, empathy and regard for one’s neighbour is a responsibility that safeguards and sustains our shared humanity and the common good of the society which we are called to promote.”

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