Vancouver Archbishop J. Michael Miller

Protect life until the end, archbishop tells health workers

  • November 24, 2022

VANCOUVER -- In the face of “morally depraved laws” allowing and expanding euthanasia, doctors and health care workers may be called to conscientious objection while working to make palliative care available as an alternative, said Vancouver Archbishop J. Michael Miller.

“Sadly, our society is in danger of seeing the sick as a burden, as a cost,” the archbishop told physicians and health care personnel attending the recent annual White Mass in Vancouver.

“No illness can ever nullify the value of human life, which must always be protected from conception to its natural end.” 

The situation means “in some cases that conscientious objection becomes a necessary decision if one is to be consistent with their ‘yes’ to life and to the inherent dignity of the human person.”

Since the decriminalization of euthanasia in 2016, the number of Canadians euthanized has grown to 10,000 a year from 1,000, the archbishop said. While access to euthanasia was originally restricted to those whose death was “reasonably foreseeable,” last year federal legislation granted access to euthanasia to adults who were profoundly suffering, regardless of whether death was near, he said.

“Next March, unless the government is forced to change its mind, persons suffering solely from mental illness will become eligible for euthanasia. In six years, Canada has gone from totally banning euthanasia to one of the most permissive euthanasia regimes in the world. Allowing ‘mature minors’ access may come next,” he said.

“The way now to minimize the damage to human dignity caused by such is to work to ensure that palliative care is affordable and accessible to every Canadian.”

The recent Canadian census showed “a precipitous decline of religious believers” in Canada, he said. 

“Such a situation calls all of us to be more intentional — and perhaps even more public — in affirming that life is sacred; that it is inviolable, and that no one can claim the right to dispose of it freely.” 

He reminded health workers of Pope Francis’ call to “a personalized approach to the sick, not just of curing them but also of caring, in view of an integral human healing.” 

The Pope is encouraging health workers to attend “not only to the specific pathology” of patients but also to the “relational, intellectual, affective and spiritual dimensions of their lives,” said the archbishop.

“For this reason, in addition to therapy and support, they expect care and attention. In a word, love. You, then, are not just to care but to love those whom the Lord entrusts to your care.”

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