By Lisa Zingarini
In a Brief submitted to the Standing Committee on Justice and Human Rights this week, the Canadian Conference of Catholic Bishops (CCCB) has reiterated its steadfast opposition to the C-7 Bill that further expands euthanasia and assisted suicide (referred to as “medical assistance in dying” – “MAID”) in Canada.
The new law
If the new law is approved, MAID would be provided to people who are not even approaching death, but who are experiencing suffering which they find intolerable and who no longer wish to live. Its provisions also allow euthanasia to be performed without a patient’s explicit consent at the time of the procedure in certain circumstances.
The changes are being introduced after a ruling issued by the Superior Court of Quebec on September 11 2019 (“Truchon v. Attorney General of Canada”) stating that the “reasonable foreseeability of natural death” criterion provided for in the law which legalized MAID in 2016, is unconstitutional as it excludes non-dying patients.
Call for accessible palliative care for all
According to the Canadian Bishops, the proposed legislation “remains deeply flawed, unjust, and morally pernicious”. In the Brief, CCCB President, Archbishop Richard Gagnon, also maintained that the Bishops are “deeply troubled” that the Federal Government chose not to appeal the Quebec Superior Court ruling. Archbishop Gagnon stressed that the new law goes far beyond the “Truchon” ruling “by relinquishing and broadening some of the remaining and important ‘safeguards’“, on the basis of “a flawed consultation”, which was conducted by the Government last January. He also recalled the national and international opposition to euthanasia and physician-assisted suicide, including other Canadian religious leaders and the World Medical Association.
The Brief insisted that the only answer to patients’ suffering is good quality and accessible palliative care for all: “The pastoral experience of the Bishops has shown that patients are more likely to request euthanasia/assisted suicide when their pain is not properly managed by good quality palliative care, when their dependence on others to provide assistance and support is not adequately met, or when they are socially marginalized. Palliative care provides the choice of a better option which is not truly accessible to all Canadians”, the Bishops argued.
Good palliative pain “addresses loneliness, fear, distress, and despair in a compassionate manner through the support of family and community” and “respects the dignity of the person and recognizes that human life has an objective and transcendent value”, they added, recalling the recent letter Samaritanus bonus by the Holy See’s Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith.
Bishops’ appeal to legislators
The Canadian Bishops therefore renewed their call upon Canadian legislators to reject the Bill C-7 and to “Catholics and all people of good will” to make their voices heard, stressing that such laws “strike at the foundation of the legal order and deeply wound human relations and justice and that the legitimation of assisted suicide and euthanasia “is a sign of the degradation of legal systems”.