Sign sends a message at rally against assisted suicide in 2016 on Parliament Hill. CNS photo/Art Babych

Charles Lewis: The distressing truth about euthanasia

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  • September 22, 2021

I now know of two people who ended their lives through euthanasia. They died in August and September.

In both cases I got to speak to family members who were at the bedside when their loved ones died.

They all said pretty much the same thing: how compassionate and caring the doctors and nurses were who came to do the procedure. They observed the deaths and all said it was peaceful, almost beautiful. And all said they were glad to have witnessed such a passing.

Most important, none felt they were seeing something extraordinary.

It is important to know this in order to understand how normal medical aid in dying, or MAiD, has become since becoming legal in 2016.

I had suspected for years that this would happen, but having it confirmed has been distressing.

The government does not advertise MAiD. It does not need to. There are no TV spots or billboards promoting the benefits of death by a physician’s hand. Instead, as I now realize, its promotion is the oldest form of communication: word of mouth. The people I have mentioned, and likely hundreds of others who have experienced watching a loved one die by euthanasia, tell others of their experience who in turn will tell others. It was just fine.

Before legalization there were plenty of strong arguments to oppose such a move. There was the slippery slope. There was the lack of respect for human life. There was the danger of seeing the sick and dying as problems to be gotten rid of. And there was the danger of patients being coerced into ending their lives so as not to be a burden.

Those arguments failed and they failed miserably. Even among Catholics those arguments never really hit home.

The only hope to slow it down, I thought, was if the experience of those who witnessed these kinds of deaths would have been revolted. That doctors and nurses would begin to be so traumatized that en masse they would have refused to end the lives of their patients.

But that has not happened and now we have a real problem.

So now what? What arguments can we use in the face of so many good experiences with MAiD?

If the person is a Catholic the strongest argument is that this is a mortal sin. That is simply wrong to take a life. But recall 70 per cent of Catholics have no objection to MAiD.

The problem is that liberal secular views, once they become normalized, seep into even the most orthodox religious communities. The walls of doctrine and dogma have become leaky. They no longer seem to hold back the flood of the worst secular views.

When you see everyone around you agreeing that MAiD is a blessing and a mercy, you begin to think that God must approve.

For a long time some of us have argued the best way to combat euthanasia is to have world-class palliative care. In 2017 the Liberals set aside a whopping $6-billion for improving such care. I recently found out that four years down the road a meagre several million dollars has been spent on “studies.”

One almost begins to think that the government will never spend that money because the vast majority of citizens, of voters, are not demanding it.

In the two cases I mentioned the people who passed said they had no interest in palliative care. They simply wanted to die and die quickly.

What is alarming is that even if good palliative care becomes universal that Canadians may still choose euthanasia. Is it possible we have passed the point of no return?

Those of us who are conscientious objectors are becoming an ever-shrinking minority.

At times I have heard a homily about the pity of euthanasia. What I do not hear is what we can do to turn the tide.

There are individuals in the country who have worked tirelessly to try to stop this madness. They are heroes and prophets. But it has not been enough.

What I hope for now is that those Christians, Jews and Muslims, the people in the pews and their leaders, band together to find a way to slow this train wreck.

Someone has to do it. As for myself, I am running out of ideas.

(Lewis is a Toronto writer and regular contributor to The Register.)

Comments (2)

This comment was minimized by the moderator on the site

Truth always defeat lies in the long run.

People will believe in science in the long run rather than religious "dogma", "doctrine" because it is based on observable evidence and truth.

k.h.w
This comment was minimized by the moderator on the site

Mr Lewis writes:

"Before legalization there were plenty of strong arguments to oppose such a move. There was the slippery slope. There was the lack of respect for human life. There was the danger of seeing the sick and dying as problems to be...

Mr Lewis writes:

"Before legalization there were plenty of strong arguments to oppose such a move. There was the slippery slope. There was the lack of respect for human life. There was the danger of seeing the sick and dying as problems to be gotten rid of. And there was the danger of patients being coerced into ending their lives so as not to be a burden. Those arguments failed and they failed miserably. Even among Catholics those arguments never really hit home."

The reason that the arguments failed miserably is probably because there was no evidence to support them and the Canadian public either knew this or suspected it. There remains no evidence. MAID providers and assessors are - as Mr Lewis notes - a compassionate and caring group and we take great pains to ensure that people seeking MAID truly understand what it represents and ensure that it is their choice and not someone else's. It is actually very rare to come across coercion and easy to spot; conversely it is not that unusual to find family less keen on MAID than the person seeking it. One of my questions to patients is "Are you a religious or spiritual person?" I ask it to ensure that they are not conflicted about asking for MAID. Twice now I have been told "Yes" and learned that the person was fearful of the consequences of MAID: their God might be angered. I was able to give them enough details about Palliative Care, and in particular talk about Palliative Sedation, that they realized that they could choose a non-MAID route which, whilst not avoiding suffering, would like reduce their distress sufficiently. I actually agreed to look after one of the two people in hospice and they had a good death there. MAID providers are not out there trying to do as much MAID as possible. Rather, we aim to give people information, choices, and the ability to end their intolerable suffering - physical, emotional or existential - through MAID if that is the route they decide upon.

Mr Lewis asks "What I hope for now is that those Christians, Jews and Muslims, the people in the pews and their leaders, band together to find a way to slow this train wreck." Why? What train wreck? Having read his article about how "peaceful, almost beautiful" MAID is, and that 70% of Catholics do not object to MAID (thank you for your honesty in including this information; in fact more Catholics support MAID than do Protestants), one is left with the realisation that it is only his beliefs that make him want to stop MAID. Perhaps Mr Lewis (and those in the hierarchy of the Catholic Church, and others) should consider the possibility that, Yes, God does approve of MAID.

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Jonathan Reggler
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