Last Updated: Friday - 09/24/2010
Week of October 24, 2005
Kill this bill, not the dying
'Right to die with dignity bill' legalizes assisted suicide
A Shepherd Speaks
By BISHOP FRED HENRY
They (Canadian citizens) must be shown true compassion in the care they receive from society, not through death-dealing, but by being looked after in a life-giving way.
Legalizing physician assisted-suicide would irreparably damage the doctor-patient relationship. The patient's trust in the doctor's whole-hearted devotion to the patient's best interests will be hard to sustain once doctors are licensed to kill.
Furthermore, such legislation would put undue stress on the conscience of the physician pressured by patients and others to take part in killing.
The unmistakable issue is the intentional killing of a human being. It has nothing to do with natural death or dignity, and everything to do with killing. We are not discussing letting someone die. A number of distinctions are necessary.
Euthanasia is not respecting a patient's refusal of treatment at anytime in the course of treatment. Medical tradition and practice clearly distinguish between refusal of medical intervention and intentionally causing death by euthanasia.
Euthanasia is not discontinuing treatment when it serves no therapeutic purpose or the patient requests treatment to cease; nor is it abstaining from medically futile treatment.
All treatments that impose undue burdens on the patient without overriding benefits or that simply provide no benefits may justifiably be withheld or withdrawn. In making such decisions, the judgment is about the worth of treatment, not about the worth of lives.
The provision of adequate medicines to control pain is not euthanasia. The administration of high doses of pain-killers and sedatives to terminally ill patients may lead to a shortening of their lives.
It is, however, morally acceptable to administer such drugs in doses which are linked to their painkilling or sedative effects, and not to the termination of life. It is not correct to call this "euthanasia" because there is not intention to shorten the patient's life.
Those favouring assisted-suicide have not given adequate attention to palliative care.
The goal of palliative care is to give comfort and thereby enable the dying to live while dying. Letting life ebb away can in no way be equated with active euthanasia.
Allowing to die is a world removed from giving a lethal injection.
Palliative care also aims at assuaging the suffering of terminal patients. Often they feel helpless, lonely, in the way, and a burden to others. With empathy, comfort care, and affirmation, palliative caregivers accompany patients in their suffering and by their kindness and compassion help the patient maintain a sense of worth and a feeling of belonging, and move from depression to hope.
The legislation of aid-in-dying would pose a threat to the elderly, the infirm, handicapped newborns and to all members of society who are unable to look after their own best interests.
This kind of legislation says to them: "You're not important; you're not needed; in fact, you are a burden to others."
Canadian citizens should be assured that government recognizes their dignity as important at every stage of life. Government must reassure them that their needs will be met humanely. They must be shown true compassion in the care they receive from society, not through death-dealing, but by being looked after in a life-giving way.
As Canadians, we all have a duty to speak up for the rights and dignity of every citizen.
In short, it is Bill C-407 that must die!
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