OTTAWA (CCN) — As the Supreme Court of Canada’s June 6 deadline approaches, bringing its euthanasia decision into effect with or without a federal law, Canada’s Catholic primate warned of danger.
“On June 6th, the Supreme Court of Canada’s decision concerning ‘medical assistance in dying’ will take effect with or without a federal law to control it,” said Cardinal Gerald Cyprien Lacroix, Archbishop of Quebec, in an open letter and video released May 30. “The adoption of Bill C-14 or the Carter decision’s coming into effect will certainly give place to appeals within the court system to widen the use of euthanasia in Quebec, available to its citizens for the past five months.”
In Quebec, only those terminally ill can access so-called “medical assistance in dying,” and only a physician can cause the death. In Bill C-14, both physicians and nurse practitioners can assess a patient’s capacity to make the request and prescribe and administer the lethal substance. Some observers have said limiting assisted death to the terminally ill is an important safeguard that would protect the disabled and chronically ill from potential abuse.
Lacroix also pointed out the federal legislation allows a doctor or nurse practitioner to prescribe the lethal drugs and allow the patient to take it at a time and place they choose. The Quebec bill does not allow assisted suicide.
“My personal journey in accompanying people in end-of-life situations confirms to me that it is dangerous to allow permission to provoke the death of another person, even with his or her consent,” Lacroix said. “Not only does the law dictate; but it educations and gives a demand of a right and a suggestion of duty.”
“With time, customs are affected and the rarity of the gesture cedes way to habit,” he said, calling it a “sad progress.”
“To respect the sanctity of life, the Catholic Church firmly opposes euthanasia and assisted suicide,” the cardinal said. “She deplores that all the scenarios put forward by the federal government eventually allow a growing number of people to ask to end their life.”
Lacroix directly addressed those who, in the words of the Carter decision, face “a grievous and irremediable medical condition (including an illness, disease or a disability) that causes enduring suffering that is intolerable.”
“The life you have received, the breath that sustains you, the personality that characterizes you are imprinted with beauty, nobility and greatness,” he said. “The love you have received, the love you have given are always present and make you — like all of us — people that are vested with great dignity in all circumstances.”
“What you have been, what you are today require, among other things, respect, accompaniment and appropriate care to help you grow to the very end,” he said.
Lacroix also issued a challenge to all people of goodwill who probably know someone in a circumstance similar to that described in the court decision.
“Listen to that person express to the very end his or her suffering and fear,” he said. “Tell that person that he or she has a great worth in your eyes and will always be able to count on your presence. Remind him or her of your unconditional love.”
The cardinal noted calls for an assisted death usually “disappear when someone is well-accompanied.”
He called for palliative care for the suffering and dying and conscience rights for health care professionals.