Last Updated: Friday - 09/24/2010
September 20, 2010
Palliative Care provides alternative to euthanasia
Covenant Health says legalized euthanasia would erode quality of care for the dying
WESTERN CATHOLIC REPORTER
EDMONTON - Palliative care providers who work with the dying are the strongest opponents of euthanasia and physician-assisted suicide, says a brief prepared by Covenant Health.
"They believe that society has not adequately addressed the needs of the dying and their families, and that the public is largely misinformed about appropriate pain management and comfort measures," says the brief.
The lengthy brief was sent Sept. 1 to the parliamentary committee on palliative and compassionate care. It was written by Karen Macmillan, head of Covenant Health's end-of-life strategy, and Gordon Self, vice president of mission, ethics and spirituality.
The brief says the recent defeat of a private member's bill in the House of Commons that called for legalization of euthanasia is not enough.
A national strategy to provide end-of-life care equally across Canada and that provides broad public education on issues related to dying is urgently needed, says Covenant Health.
The parliamentary committee was established in April to promote awareness of the deficiencies in palliative care in Canada, promote dialogue on the topic, and implement policies to overcome the deficiencies.
FAILURE OF COMPASSION
The Covenant Health brief maintains that euthanasia represents "the ultimate failure of compassion and expression of solidarity." Rather than being an exercise of a moral right to personal autonomy, it reveals "the seeming incapacity of being truly present to another's suffering."
Covenant Health - Alberta's province-wide Catholic health care consortium - is "vehemently opposed" to legalization of euthanasia and doctor-assisted suicide.
Long a leader in providing care for the dying, Covenant Health fears that legalizing euthanasia will erode society's commitment to high standards of palliative care.
"The availability of euthanasia as a legal right would redirect resources and energies away from understanding why someone may request euthanasia, and ultimately the relief of their suffering."
Proponents of euthanasia maintain that it would only be provided to those who give lucid, free, uncoerced consent, the brief notes. But research shows that those who request euthanasia often spring from psychological and spiritual distress, suffering and a belief they are a burden.
Those reasons for seeking euthanasia point to a culture that denies death and makes topics such as loss, dependency and vulnerability taboo, it says. A national end-of-life strategy should provide funding for qualified spiritual care providers to accompany the dying in their suffering.
The existence of legal euthanasia may well lead to a duty to die. Even if the dying see value in their own lives, they may choose euthanasia if they believe those around them do not see that value, the brief states.
While there are burdens associated with caring for the dying, the brief asserts, "No person is a burden."
"Human life is an immeasurable treasure that must be celebrated and nurtured."
Proponents of euthanasia, says Covenant Health, sometimes misrepresent the position of religious groups, claiming that the churches insist on sustaining life at any and all cost.
"Prolonging dying is morally wrong, but so is intending and hastening death," says the brief.
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