Assisted suicide and euthanasia discussed

SASKATOON — An evening discussion on euthanasia and assisted suicide was held Oct. 16 at St. Philip Neri Parish in Saskatoon. Some 30 people attended the session, which was led by Mary Deutscher of the diocesan Justice and Peace Commission and Dr. Philip Fitzpatrick of the Catholic Physicians Guild of Saskatoon.

Discussion was centred around the Catholic Organization of Life and Family (COLF)’s document, Euthanasia and Assisted Suicide: Urgent Questions! Following an opening prayer led by St. Philip pastor Rev. Emile April, Deutscher began the evening by walking participants through the definitions provided by COLF.

“Euthanasia is NOT respecting a person’s refusal of treatment or request to discontinue treatment. Euthanasia is NOT letting someone die naturally by withholding or withdrawing medical treatment when its burdens outweigh its benefits. Euthanasia is NOT the administration of drugs appropriate for the relief of pain and suffering even if some anticipate that the unintended effect might be the shortening of life,” she stressed.

“People are often worried that they will die hooked up to machines or in great pain. The truth is that you don’t need euthanasia to avoid these scenarios,” Deutscher explained, before providing a brief history of euthanasia in Canada.

Participants formed small groups to answer the questions provided by COLF. Large group discussion covered a range of topics from advanced care directives, to overtreatment, to the impact legalization of euthanasia and/or assisted suicide would have on families and society.

Katrina Burns, president of the University of Saskatchewan’s Students for Life club, pointed out that when someone says they want to commit suicide, the appropriate response is to discover the underlying reasons that are motivating this request.

“When I took Applied Suicide Intervention Skills Training we were taught that when you see someone on top of a bridge, you should talk to them, to try to get them to come down. You don’t push them off!” said Burns.

Other participants expressed profound concern about what message the legalization of euthanasia and assisted suicide would send to those who are dependent on others for care. Questions were raised about whether these people would then be afraid to seek medical care, or if they would begin to see themselves as a burden.

Participants were encouraged to reach out to those who are sick and dying, and to join organizations such as the Euthanasia Prevention Coalition to support the dignity of every human life.

Parish Nurse Ethna Martin, who organized the evening at St. Philip, said she was happy to see parishioners ready to engage this difficult topic.

“We have such a good variety of age groups showing solidarity on this issue,” she said. “The dangers of euthanasia and assisted suicide should concern all Canadians.”

The session followed a similar evening held at St. Paul Co-Cathedral in June. Fitzpatrick said that he hopes other parishes will take advantage of the guild’s offer to co-host euthanasia information sessions.

“I think evenings like this help to raise awareness, and I hope that they move people from just listening to acting on these issues,” he said. He added that it was wonderful to receive so much wisdom from seniors in the parish who made the effort to attend the sessions.

The Canadian Federation of Catholic Physicians’ Societies is a national organization committed to fostering the dignity and sacredness of human life. The local chapter in Saskatoon is still in its beginning stages and is open to any Catholic physicians or medical students who wish to join its membership. The Saskatoon Catholic Physicians Guild can be contacted through their Facebook page or by email,

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