Canadian religious leaders denounce Bill C-7: ‘Medical Assistance in Dying’

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Representatives of wide range of religious groups in Canada sent a strong message to the Liberal government October 14, describing Medical Assistance in Dying (MAiD) legislation before Parliament as “more accurately, and tragically, nothing less than murder.”

The same release was sent out by the Evangelical Fellowship of Canada and the Canadian Conference of Catholic Bishops:

Today, more than 50 religious leaders from across Canada released an open letter to all Canadians in opposition to Bill C-7 An Act to amend the Criminal Code (medical assistance in dying).

This ecumenical and interfaith message is a response by religious leaders to the legislation introduced by the federal government on 5 October 2020 which seeks to expand the eligibility criteria for euthanasia and assisted suicide (euphemistically called “medical assistance in dying”) by removing the “reasonable foreseeability of natural death” criterion currently in the Criminal Code, and by loosening some of the existing “safeguards” allowing patients whose death is “reasonably foreseeable” to waive final consent to receiving euthanasia by making an advance directive.

The religious leaders said in part:

We are obliged to express our strong concern and opposition to Bill C:7 which, among other things, expands access to euthanasia and assisted suicide to those who are not dying. It perplexes our collective minds that we have come so far as a society yet, at the same time, have so seriously regressed in the manner that we treat the weak, the ill, and the marginalized.

The message reflects a unity of thought and concern among Canada’s diverse religious communities in the face of human suffering, dying and death, and the inadequacy of euthanasia and assisted suicide as a response.

The religious leaders further expressed:

We are convinced that a robust palliative care system available to all Canadians is a much more effective response to suffering and to protecting the sacred dignity of the human person. Palliative care addresses pain in a loving and caring environment, wherein people go out of their way to offer comfort and solace. It makes everyone into a better person.

The development of the message was initiated by the Canadian Conference of Catholic Bishops (CCCB), Rabbi Dr. Reuven P. Bulka, CM, PhD, the Canadian Council of Imams (CCI), the Evangelical Fellowship of Canada (EFC) and Ahmadiyya Muslim Jama’at Canada.

The Canadian Council of Churches did not support the open letter, nor did some of their larger denominations such as the United Church of Canada, the Anglican Church of Canada, the Evangelical Lutheran Church in Canada and the Presbyterian Church in Canada. But several did, including the largest by far, the Roman Catholic Church (through the Canadian Conference of Catholic Bishops).

This is how the open letter begins:

We are obliged to express our strong concern and opposition to Bill C-7 which, among other things, expands access to euthanasia and assisted suicide to those who are not dying. It perplexes our collective minds that we have come so far as a society yet, at the same time, have so seriously regressed in the manner that we treat the weak, the ill, and the marginalized.

We the undersigned remain inalterably opposed to euthanasia and assisted suicide, the intentional killing of human beings, euphemistically being called “Medical Assistance in Dying,” (MAiD) but which is more accurately, and tragically, nothing less than murder, as was recognized by the Criminal Code of Canada prior to the passing of Bill C-14 in June 2016.

We, of course, have no desire to impose pain on the sick, nor do we wish that anyone suffer unduly. This is not our approach to illness and dying. We are convinced that a robust palliative care system available to all Canadians is a much more effective response to suffering and to protecting the sacred dignity of the human person.

Palliative care addresses pain in a loving and caring environment, wherein people go out of their way to offer comfort and solace. It makes everyone into a better person. Palliative care is a viable and life affirming alternative, which does not discriminate against any group and which gives expression to the ethics of caring and inclusion, hallmarks of Canadian values.

It is clear that the offerings of Bill C-7 will have harmful effects on persons with disabilities, as their representatives and organizations have made abundantly clear, and as the United Nations Special Rapporteur concluded on her visit to Canada. Offering euthanasia or assisted suicide to those living with a disability or chronic illness, but who are not dying, suggests that living with a disability or illness is a fate worse than death.

This will create certain pressures to accept such lethal procedures, putting the lives of these Canadians at greater risk in what is now a new regime that sees certain lives can be ended.

Go here for the full letter.

The Christian Legal Fellowship also posted an open letter to Parliament opposing Bill C-7 on October 14. The Lawyers’ Joint Statement includes these words:

No longer limited to hastening death, Bill C-7 embraces MAiD as a means of terminating an otherwise viable life. . . . Bill C-7 thus affirms a very dangerous stereotype: that a life with a disability may not be worth living.

‘Physicians Together with Vulnerable Canadians’ also released a statement: ‘Bill C-7, from MAiD to MAD: Medical Assistance in Dying Becomes Medically Administered Death.’

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