The Irene Thomas Hospice in Delta, B.C. Delta Hospice

Peter Stockland: Don’t lose sight of ‘bigger picture’

By 
  • February 7, 2020

It’s true there’s a challenge, to say the least, in seeing the “bigger picture” when the picture’s focus is life and death itself.

Yet the immediate menace facing a small palliative care hospice in suburban Vancouver illustrates the imperative of expanding — deepening? — our vision as people of faith in the face of the rapacious onslaught of medical assistance in dying. 

We have, up to now, sought to stop, then resist, then slow the juggernaut as though MAiD itself is the essential problem. It was an understandable, perhaps the only practical, approach when the battle was being fought and the solutions were being sought at the political, legislative and legal levels. Those who engaged did so with a natural and reasonable faith that if we could articulate why MAiD is wrong, all would be made right.

It was sound strategy until the message came back that no one was listening. At best, we were talking to ourselves. As Alex Schadenberg, a 20-year stalwart warrior of the Euthanasia Prevention Coalition, told me in a recent interview, the certainty of even that internal dialogue can no longer be taken for granted. 

“My focus is becoming far more heavily on how we protect our own: the whole compassionate care community. Just because you think that euthanasia is wrong doesn’t mean that in your time of darkness, you will not also succumb,” Schadenberg said.

There’s great wisdom in conserving resources and speaking first — though obviously not exclusively — to those who speak a common language of belief. But the situation confronting Angelina Ireland and her colleagues on the board of the Delta Hospice Society suggests it might already be insufficient.

The 10-bed centre is under brutal pressure from the local health authority to allow administration of MAiD despite the Society’s bylaws prohibiting medical killing of patients. Ireland told me it’s entirely possible those pushing MAiD will resort to refusing to refer palliative care patients to the hospice unless and until the board knuckles under. The facility could close. 

A great paradox is there would be no such pressure were the Delta hospice a faith-based institution, which it expressly is not. But Ireland is explicit no one should assume that means palliative care in a religiously administered setting is safe as houses. 

“They’ve come for us, and they will come for the religious-based organizations as well to try to force them to implement euthanasia, too. The climate in this country is that even ‘those people’ shouldn’t be allowed to have an exemption,” Ireland said.

Ireland’s words illuminate the danger of fighting against MAiD entirely as an illegitimate medical procedure pitting life against death when, in reality, it is that but also far more (sinisterly?) profound. We risk compounding the peril if we engage the next round of the anti-MAiD battle entirely on Charter-guaranteed religious freedom and conscience rights. 

For MAiD represents one grotesque piece of a titanic assault against what it means to be human. It seeks to eradicate, in all areas of life, the very meaning of personhood that Judeo-Christian teaching taught us over millennia. No less a startling source than Andrew Sullivan has argued recently that the sole answer to this primitive reversion is the resurrection of fully, truly Christian culture.

“I see no way forward but a revival of Christianity, of its view of human beings as ‘neither Jew nor Gentile, neither slave nor free, nor is there male and female, for you are all one in Christ Jesus.’ This means such a transcendent view of human equality that it does not require equality of outcomes to see equal dignity and worth,” Sullivan wrote on nymag.com. 

“Yes, I’m hoping for a miracle. But at this point, what else have we got?”

Well, we also have a Church that could mobilize against MAiD and related scourges but equally for a culture of seeing Christ Jesus in every person. A generational fight for the ages? True. But truly the big picture. 

(Stockland is publisher of Convivium.ca and a senior fellow with Cardus.)

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What does your faith have to do with my body autonomy?

Laura Gardiner
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