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mlkLast year I reported about the alarming assault on the Freedom of Conscience in Canada as it relates to laws potentially forcing Physicians of conscience to refer, prescribe, or perform assisted suicide. I know that I have a minority opinion among Canadians with whom I would say – have not had the open and thorough debate around the values and safeguards on this topic.

When I talk with people about Euthanasia and Physician Assisted Suicide, the number one issue that comes up is the “cruelty” of letting a person suffer.  Aside from this being an unfair hyperbole (no one is “let to suffer”; suffering is part of the human experience and we try to mitigate it) – it speaks particularly to our fear of the possibility of agonizing suffering in the late stages (or any stage?) of our own life.

I get it: no one wants to suffer. The irony is that the health care that has prolonged life beyond unassisted limits is now being called upon to assist those who want to end their lives prematurely.

Usually people have not thought beyond the point of suffering in general, and their own suffering in particular.

What else is there to consider?

Lots.

In some jurisdictions there is debate about if the chronically depressed would qualify for this medical attention (sic); if not, why not? If so, what would the parameters be around this? There has already been discussion about people who do not even want to face the possibility of suffering, and therefore want to “pre-empt” their suffering by prematurely ending their lives.

In deed, we live in a time where we do not understand suffering, and we rail against the possibility that such a thing still exists in modernity.  A society that has lost a theology of suffering does not appear to have grounds for an ontology of suffering either.

Add to this that we are also a society that has been largely silent to the disease of loneliness and isolation among the aged and mentally ill. We live in what James Houston calls “the continent of loneliness” – – this cultural moment where we are alienated from each other and from the One who made us for Himself.

Are there Safeguards on the Bill to Legalize Euthanasia and Physician Assisted Suicide?

Meanwhile the federal government is getting ready to introduce a bill to legalize euthanasia and physician assisted suicide in Canada without really working through these considerations:

  • adequate safeguards for vulnerable Canadians – especially those with mental health challenges
  • clear conscience protection for health-care workers and institutions
  • protection of children and those under 18 from Physician Assisted Suicide.

By taking two minutes of your time, you encourage the initiative of MP Harold Albrecht who wants to raise these issues in the parliamentary debates that will take place before a law is voted.

https://petitions.parl.gc.ca/en/Petition/Details?Petition=e-263

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For more, see “Infringement on Freedoms of Conscience.”

Or see the Christian Medical and Dental Society response to Euthanasia and Physician Assisted Suicide.

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A Personal Note:

My wife and I have invested the last seven years caring for her parents in our home as we have watched them both diminish physically and mentally. My father-in-law’s constant suffering is part of the daily conversation, along with their increasing desire for our presence and care. Physical suffering and loneliness are qualities we work to mitigate.

I write this to prevent anyone from thinking I am speaking merely intellectually on a topic about which I am untouched. I am touched daily with suffering, and I reflectively consider the place of suffering and community across the arc of our short lives.

Some of what I get in push back is:

“Why should I be allowed to prevent a person from euthanasia if he/she wants to end their suffering?”

My answer is twofold:

  • By the mere act of debating this topic openly, I am not preventing a person from euthanasia. If we as a society recognize the issues and concerns that would cause us (not me) to prevent, or to put significant safeguards on this act, then that is up to us. I would ask in contrast: why should you/society be allowed to force any physician to refer, prescribe, or perform an act against their conscience?
  • Suffering ought to arouse compassionate engagement, not execution. I understand the handy motto of “dying with dignity,” but this is a shortcut from a discussion that never happens: the place of suffering, loneliness, and alienation in our society.

Life is more enigma than dogma; it is a “nauseous journey over a fearful abyss;” and it belongs to the One who made us for Himself.

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