WINNIPEG — A day after Canada’s Supreme Court ruled euthanasia and assisted suicide are a legal right in this country, a leading proponent of the protection of God-given life told all defenders of the right to live to first pray, then contact their member of Parliament.
“Let’s not give up hope,” said Dr. Larry Rados. “The cross is more powerful than the Supreme Court and the Government of Canada.”
Speaking at Winnipeg Life’s Vision Annual Luncheon Feb. 7 at Holy Eucharist Parish Centre, coincidentally with the ruling the day before, Rados asked the more than 200 in attendance how many have asked their MPs or MLAs what their stance is on the subject, and to do so immediately, and in numbers.
“This is not over,” he said.
The court gives Parliament a year to draft new legislation that recognizes the right of consenting adults who are “enduring intolerable suffering to seek medical help ending their lives.” Rados predicts supporters of euthanasia and assisted suicide will work toward creating a definition of a terminal illness that is so broad “anyone who wants it can have it.”
“It will be interesting for doctors,” he said, adding that until now a doctor who opposed assisted suicide could simply say it’s illegal. He said a hospital colleague told him, “If they make me do that, I’m out of here.”
Rados is a member of the teaching faculty of the University of Manitoba’s Department of Family Medicine and is an emergency and intensive care physician at the Misericordia Health Centre. He is a past vice-president of Manitoba Physicians for Life.
He said the issue is connected to the topic of contraception, which Pope John Paul II said “would make people believe they have ultimate control over their own body,” while in the opinion of novelist and lay theologian C. S. Lewis, “people don’t own their bodies, we are the tenants and God is the landlord.”
Euthanasia and assisted suicide are the same things, said Rados, “with the same goal and same result.” Euthanasia involves the administering of a lethal injection, while with assisted suicide a doctor provides a fatal prescription to be taken by the patient.
Rados said in Canada, within a year, “you may be at the drugstore and the person in front of you may have a prescription for a lethal dose of barbiturates intended to kill that person.”
Rados said in Holland the number of deaths by assisted suicide, which has been legal there for several years, is six times greater than the number of deaths by motor vehicle accidents. He said many of those euthanizations and assisted suicides are neither requested nor consented to by the victims. He said in 2013 in Holland, 97 people living with Alzheimer’s disease were euthanized.
Rados said the right to die has nothing to do with dying with dignity. He paraphrased St. Thomas Aquinas, saying, “dignity is about one’s relationship with God.”
He said patients who consider euthanasia might do so due to their pain, “yet palliative care can deal with almost any kind of pain.” Other reasons are because of the lack of a support network, the fear of the loss of their autonomy and control and becoming a burden on family and society.
Rados quoted Bobby Schindler, brother of the late Terri Schiavo, a woman at the centre of a U.S. right-to-life court battle, who said “where there is love, there is no burden.”
Rados said the word compassion means “to suffer with. How do we suffer with them when we kill them?”
Rados said Dr. Harvey Chochinov of Winnipeg, Canada’s research chair in palliative care, has stated a patient’s desire for a hastened death is highly changeable with the right care. “I wish the Supreme Court judges would have heard from Dr. Chochinov,” Rados said.
However, Rados added, access to palliative care lags behind demand, with only 30 per cent of Canadians receiving proper palliative care. In a statement following the court ruling, Archbishop of Winnipeg Richard Gagnon wrote, “the church strongly supports, along with most Canadians, the need to increase the best palliative care for patients.”
In 2007 Rados was the recipient of the Winnipeg League for Life (now Life’s Vision) Joe Borowski Award. This year’s recipient was Manuelita Mejos of St. Edward’s Church, who was honoured at the luncheon for her dedication to the 40 Days for Life Campaign.