Politics, cutting costs threaten sanctity of life

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  • November 16, 2007

{mosimage}TORONTO - A pro-life advocate, Alex Schadenberg, has warned that one of the Catholic faith’s foremost goals, to preserve life, is under threat from the political and medical fronts in Canada.

Giving a keynote address at the Catholic Civil Rights League (CCRL) annual general meeting on Nov. 8, Schadenberg, executive director of the Euthanasia Prevention Coalition (EPC), said the sanctity of life is increasingly being sacrificed for political gains and cutting medical care costs.

{sidebar id=1}Schadenberg was answering questions on whether it is morally wrong to deny food and fluids to a patient in a vegetative state where the food would only sustain the status of the patient but will not improve their condition.

He said Catholic teachings consider any patient with life in them, no matter how minimal, as worthy of all the comfort that can be provided and nobody, other than God, has a right to deprive them of food and fluids.

“Denying them is killing them through dehydration like in the Terri Schiavo case and that is not allowed in our Catholic faith,” he said.

“Unfortunately, this very principle is under threat because the minority Conservative government will not be able to block any bill seeking to legalize all forms of euthanasia because all the opposition parties are pro-euthanasia.”

On the medical front, he challenged the CCRL to confront Catholic hospitals where he alleged patients are increasingly being denied food and fluids by doctors.

“We would hope that in Catholic hospitals where this practice exists, it will be eliminated,” he said.

Schadenberg explained that there is a difference between someone whose system is completely shutting down and has hours or a few days to live and someone who may have lost certain bodily functions but is still very much alive, as was the case with Schiavo, the American woman in a vegetative state whose family battled in the courts to keep her on life-support despite efforts of her husband to pull the plug. The husband eventually won out.

“A person in a permanent vegetative state is a person with fundamental human dignity and must, therefore, receive ordinary and proportionate care which includes, in principle, the administration of water and food, even by artificial means,” he said.

CCRL’s executive director, Joanne McGarry, would not specifically say whether the league would confront administrators at Catholic hospitals but she appealed to CCRL members and all Catholics in general to discourage the practice.

“We have always encouraged members who are employed in medical professions to share their concerns with us about anti-life pressures in their workplaces. More precise involvement on this question would have to be determined on a case-by-case basis,” said McGarry.

She said overall, the challenge for the league and for Catholics is to stand up for “our own rights” in a social climate where it seems to be assumed that those with no religion have an automatic right to prevail over believers.

McGarry added that the league’s general mandate is the “defence of church teaching in the public square.”

Meanwhile, the entire CCRL leadership was retained at the meeting. Phil Horgan remains president, Bill French is vice president and John Sidle is treasurer. Michael Connell, former education director of the league, has joined the board as a director.

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