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Faith leaders unite against assisted suicide 

(Staff)  WHEN THE SUPREME Court of Canada struck down the ban on assisted suicide in its unanimous Carter decision of Feb. 6th, 2015, it stipulated that Parliament must draft some new legislation within a set time frame. 

Hence, on June 6th there will be a free vote in the House of Commons on Bill C-14, which would allow euthanasia and assisted suicide for mentally competent persons who are 18 years or older, with “a serious and incurable illness, disease or disability,” who are “in an advanced state of irreversible decline in capability,” “enduring physical or psychological suffering that is intolerable to them” and whose “natural death has become reasonably foreseeable” (not necessarily imminent or certain).

While the proposed legislation does not allow for euthanizing children, the mentally ill or those living with dementia, National Post columnist Andrew Coyne argues these current exceptions to assisted suicide eventually will fall away. He writes that “while the preamble to Bill C-14 takes pains to affirm the ‘inherent and equal value of every person’s life’ and expresses a desire to avoid ‘encouraging negative perceptions of the quality of life of persons who are elderly, ill or disabled,’ that is the unmistakable message we would be sending: some lives are not worth living.” 

At a news conference on Apr. 19th on Parliament Hill, representatives of The Evangelical Fellowship of Canada (EFC), the Canadian Conference of Catholic Bishops (CCCB), The Canadian Council of Imams, The Salvation Army and Jewish communities, as well as a Montreal hematologist-oncologist, expressed their concerns regarding proposed legislation authorizing “medical assistance in dying.”

“We stand together today, leaders within our respective faith communities – Jewish, Muslim and Christian – to express our grave concern over the decriminalization of assisted suicide and euthanasia. We believe that any action intended to end human life is morally and ethically wrong.

“Our churches, synagogues and mosques are committed to comfort and care for those who are dying and their families,” said the religious leaders in a joint statement. “Together, with our diverse communities of faith, we are determined to work to alleviate human suffering in every form but never by intentionally eliminating those who suffer.” The leaders called on the government instead to provide palliative care, support services for people with psychiatric illness and supports for the disabled.

Although the preamble of Bill C-14 indicates the government will develop non-legislative measures that respect the personal convictions of health care providers, “A significant omission is the lack of conscience protection in the bill,” said EFC’s Director of Public Policy, Julia Beazley. “It is essential to have strong conscience protection in the legislation for both medical practitioners and institutions who object, at a minimum, and this protection must be in place before this bill becomes law.”  

Addressing the right of conscience for care facilities, the speakers asked “for the same protection that has been provided to these facilities in every foreign jurisdiction in the world that has legalized euthanasia/assisted suicide; that is, never to force hospitals, nursing homes, hospices and other care facilities to go against their mission and values, which are their institutional conscience.” Because there is no reference to conscience rights in the draft legislation, “it appears that the federal government is leaving this issue to the provinces and territories for consideration.” The religious leaders insisted “those protections are vital not only for the fundamental human rights of healthcare professionals; not only for the integrity of the medical profession; they are vital to maintaining the sanctity of life as an enduring Canadian value. That value continues to define us whatever legislation is adopted as law.”

“With the introduction of Bill C-14, Canada has crossed a significant threshold,” said Bruce Clemenger, President of EFC. “The decriminalization of euthanasia and assisted suicide constitutes a fundamental shift in how we as a society value and understand life and the duty of care we owe one another. Never before have we as a nation said that intentional killing is an appropriate response to suffering, or that we should take the life of the one who suffers rather than finding ways to alleviate their suffering.”

“We are very concerned because international experience demonstrates that safeguards cannot be completely effective in ensuring there are no wrongful deaths,” continued Clemenger. “Decriminalizing assisted suicide and euthanasia places vulnerable people at risk.”

“We are deeply sympathetic to the suffering of individuals, and know these questions have deeply personal implications for many,” said Beazley. “But they also have profound implications for our society. Many people who are at the end of life are concerned about being a burden and may be afraid of what lies ahead. We are very concerned that access to physician-hastened death will come to feel like an obligation, in order not to be a burden on caregivers or an over-burdened health care system.”

Beazley said it was “lamentable” that the nation “would go down the road of offering hastened death when the need for high quality palliative care across Canada has not yet been addressed. Palliative care is best suited to provide comfort and care to patients and their families who are suffering and near death.” 

“Parliament’s hands are not tied by the Court’s decision,” maintained Clemenger. “Parliament could choose to respond to the Carter decision by reaffirming its [Parliament’s] objective of promoting and protecting life and reintroducing a ban on euthanasia.”TAP                     

–Main source: EFC 

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