Thursday, October 17, 2013

Letter: Anglican bishops call upon Quebec to withdraw ‘medical aid in dying’ bill

This is a letter to the editor that was sent by both Bishop Barry Clarke and Bishop Dennis Drainville regarding the ‘medical aid in dying’ bill. It was published in the Montreal Gazette on October 15, 2013.

Christian thought through the ages has been guided by the principle that human beings are made in the image and likeness of God, and our life is to be seen as a gift entrusted to us by God. Life is thus seen as something larger than any individual person’s ownership of it, and is not simply ours to discard.

While we recognize there is a diversity of opinion about euthanasia, both within our church and in society at large, the Christian vision of human dignity and community gives rise to some profound misgivings about the Quebec government’s Act Respecting End-of-Life Care, which will allow physicians to administer “terminal palliative sedation” or “medial aid in dying” to patients who request it.

We acknowledge the emotional and challenging circumstances that have led the government to consider the legalization of physician-assisted suicide. We share, with other members of society, concern for the protection of human persons from chronic pain and respect for human dignity.

Nevertheless, there are reasons to believe that the legalization of euthanasia in Quebec could present special risks for those in our society who are already vulnerable, especially the elderly, those suffering from clinical depression, and those with disabilities.

While we appreciate the legislation’s implication that palliative care should be available to all people. Indeed, good medical practice sustains the commitment to care even when it is no longer possible to cure. Such care may involve the removal of therapies or treatments that are ineffective and/or intolerably burdensome to the patient.

However, we cannot support the idea that care can include an act or omission whose primary intention is to end a person’s life. Such a notion asks our physicians to transform from ministers of healing to agents of death. Both the request for assistance in committing suicide, and the provision of such assistance, must be taken seriously as a failure of human community.

The Christian response is always one of hope. From this hope there arises the commitment to give all members of society, especially the most vulnerable, the assurance that they will be supported in all circumstances of their lives. This means they will neither have dehumanizing medical interventions forced upon them nor that they will be abandoned in their suffering.

We therefore call upon the government to withdraw Bill 52 and focus energy and resources on making authentic palliative care universally accessible throughout Quebec.

The Right Reverend Dennis Drainville, Bishop of Quebec

The Right Reverend Barry B. Clarke, Bishop of Montreal

Anglican Church of Canada

Source: Montreal Gazette

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