REGINA — Dr. Larry Rados, an emergency room physician at Winnipeg’s Misericordia Hospital, presents an alarming story of what has happened in other jurisdictions that have allowed euthanasia. Rados’ talk was recorded late last year on DVD and has made the rounds in presentations opposing Bill C-14, a bill that would allow euthanasia under certain conditions. The bill is the federal government’s answer to last year’s Supreme Court ruling that not giving people the choice to end their life assisted by a physician is against the Charter of Rights and Freedoms contained in the 1982 Canadian Constitution.
The session, an initiative of Christ the King Parish, was held May 15 in the church hall.
Rados devotes most of his talk to European nations who have a history of euthanasia, but did include a few statistics from U.S. States, such as Oregon, that have allowed it. “Oregon now has a suicide rate of 35 per cent, the highest in the country,” says Rados. Holland now has 12 people per day euthanized and the country is now developing or may have already developed portable units that can travel around to meet demand.
His presentation was followed by Regina archdiocesan theologian Brett Salkeld answering questions from the audience. He noted that he is currently writing a five-part series — three have already appeared — in the Prairie Messenger on the subject of euthanasia. Salkeld has written and spoken about the church’s opposition to euthanasia, and his answers to audience questions reiterated those positions.
Contrary to public belief, Salkeld said, the church does not believe in keeping people alive forever and does accept that an individual has the right to refuse treatment and sustenance that may keep them alive.
“Letting them die is legitimate,” said Salkeld, “just don’t kill me.”
The church is also not opposed to giving people medication to ease pain and to provide comfort, said Salkeld, even if such medication has the possibility of ending the individual’s life. “The difference is intent.”
Salkeld also expressed concern that the proposed legislation does not provide strong safeguards to protect vulnerable people who, under the influence of someone else, may be coerced into being killed. He is also concerned that there does not appear to be any exclusion for Catholic institutions or protection for medical personnel for whom euthanasia is against their conscience.
“If Catholic institutions are not protected, they may have to disobey the law and see what happens.”
Saskatoon Bishop Donald Bolen is scheduled to lead a delegation next month to meet with legislators to request more palliative care and conscience rights for health care workers. Salkeld and others opposed to euthanasia have argued that, with palliative care as an option, there would be reduced demand for euthanasia.