Euthanasia and assisted suicide


Euthanasia and assisted suicide

In Quebec, the law concerning end-of-life care, officially approved in December 2015, defines such end-of-life care as, on the one hand, palliative care, and on the other, medical assistance in dying.  (Even if the bill avoids saying the word, we must acknowledge, in the second case, that we are dealing with euthanasia: killing someone to put an end to their suffering.)

The bishops of Qubec approved the proposals concerning palliative care, since those correspond to Gospel values.  But they have added their voices to those of many who are opposed to proposals concerning euthanasia, since Catholic tradition has always seen an act provoking the death of a defenseless being as an assault on human dignity and the sacred dimension of life.

On February 6th, 2015, the Supreme Court of Canada declared invalid the article in the Criminal Code defining euthanasia or assisted dying as a crime.  Following this decision, the Government of Canada legislatee on the issue by framing this practice that, for better or for worse, is slowly spreading throughout the world. Thus, Bill C-14, an act concerning medical aid in dying, received royal sanction on June 17, 2016.

While deploring the evolution of this question, Canada's bishops, through the CCCB, have especially expressed their deep concern at the lack of protection of the freedom of conscience of health care workers, as well as the freedom of health institutions opposed to such practices, especially Catholic hospitals.  They are offended that this practice might be implemented without first ensuring adequate palliative care throughout the country.

The debate surrounding these questions is particularly fierce since we don’t always agree on the vocabulary to use, or on the social consequences of normalizing a practice that originally sought to respond only to exceptional cases.  (Let us think of the present trivialization of abortion that, only a few years ago, was considered only in the most dramatic cases.)

It is important, as citizens and Christians, that we truly understand this issue, the values that are at stake, and the moral tradition of our Church, so that we can better discern how to accompany our loved ones who are facing death.