Catholics in Lloydminster paid rapt attention at the very first Every Life Matters session April 3.

WCR PHOTO | LASHA MORNINGSTAR

Catholics in Lloydminster paid rapt attention at the very first Every Life Matters session April 3.

April 18, 2016
LASHA MORNINGSTAR
WESTERN CATHOLIC REPORTER

The federal government's mindset that will form the new legal landscape for physician-assisted death is un-Christian, says Edmonton Archbishop Richard Smith.

"The message conveyed by the decision of the Supreme Court of Canada, together with the recommendations of the Special Joint Committee, is both clear and chilling: There are some lives that are simply not worth saving."

Smith made his remarks to the more than 250 people gathered on Divine Mercy Sunday, April 3, at St. Anthony's Church in Lloydminster.

Noting that the meeting was held on Divine Mercy Sunday, Smith emphasized, "In God's sight, killing is not mercy. Killing can never be mercy.

"To speak, as some do, of assisted suicide and euthanasia as acts of mercy is a gross distortion of the term. We understand true mercy only when we return the gaze of Jesus and recognize in him the merciful face of the Father."

This was the initial session of a five-part series, Every Life Matters series, being given in the Edmonton Archdiocese in response to pending physician-assisted death legislation.

The Supreme Court ruled in February 2015 that prohibiting physician-assisted death violated Canadians' charter rights. The federal government has until June 6 to pass new legislation. Until that date, assisted suicide and euthanasia are still against the law.

However, to date, three patients outside of Quebec, which has its own euthanasia law, have received court approval for a physician-assisted death.

Kate Faught

Kate Faught

The archdiocese's series aims to educate Catholics about the potential consequences of assisted suicide.

Panel members for this initial information session included Smith, Kate Faught, an Edmonton lawyer specializing in estate law, and Dr. Anna Voeuk, a palliative care specialist.

SANCTITY OF HUMAN LIFE

Smith called on people to have the wisdom to open their eyes and "see the truth of the sanctity of every human life. Only with eyes closed can we begin even to think that some lives are less worth living than others."

Smith noted physician-assisted death is an emotionally charged issue with some people claiming, "It is my body and I can do what I want with it."

Others are confused by the unknown, said Smith. They wonder, "How am I supposed to face death? Did we do the right thing when we ended the treatment that was keeping our loved one alive?"

Faught provided recent legal background, noting that the move to change the physician-assisted suicide legislation began when Sue Rodriguez, afflicted with ALS, pushed the right-to-die debate into the spotlight in Canada. Her request failed, but the movement grew.

DON'T SOFTEN LANGUAGE

Voeuk urged people to invoke compassion when confronted with this scenario, saying as a physician, "Who am I to tell you 'You are not suffering?'"

She also cautioned that, given the emotionally charged topic, that one must be aware of the softening of terms.

Dr. Anna Voeuk

Dr. Anna Voeuk

An audience member asked whether they did the right thing when physicians suggested they take their ailing aged mother off life support, and they did. The question was "Did they kill her?"

NATURAL DEATH

Voeuk put the situation in perspective.

While not knowing of the woman's exact medical condition, the palliative care physician said if the woman was indeed dying then, by removing the devices keeping her alive, the doctors simply allowed her to have a natural death.

Each panel member urged audience members to let their MLA and MP know their opinion of physician-assisted death as soon as possible.

People are invited to submit questions and comments on end-of-life issues via Twitter.com\caedm or the Catholic Archdiocese of Edmonton on Facebook.