Mark pickup says life with multiple sclerosis has been a rollercoaster.


Mark pickup says life with multiple sclerosis has been a rollercoaster.

May 2, 2016

Archbishop Richard Smith issued a passionate call to arms in the ongoing fight against physician-assisted suicide.

"We are witness in this country to extraordinary events which are not of God's doing - the legalization of assisted suicide and euthanasia," he said.

Smith issued his challenge to an attentive audience at St. Charles Church April 14. The education seminar was the last of the five-part Every Life Matters series created by the Edmonton Archdiocese.

The archbishop proposed four courses of action for Catholics to take - Be Catholic! Be informed! Be Vocal! Be Inoculated!

To be Catholic we realize that all stages of life are not respected in our country, he said. We must repent because of our contribution to this and change our lives "in conformity with our covenant relationship with God."

Smith stated that 40 per cent of Canadians call themselves Catholic. In the Western Hemisphere, that number climbs to two-thirds.

Said Smith: "If we were indeed living fully and authentically our identity in Christ as members of the Church, our society would be transformed."

To do that, Catholics must be informed. Smith noted the archdiocesan website offers information and Salt and Light TV will soon produce visual sessions of the seminars, including CDs.

When we are informed, it is time to speak out, be vocal, said the archbishop. Not only should we explain our positions to government officials (personal letters are ideal), but also talk with our family and legal advisors when we hear opinions expressed in public that don't mesh with ours.

If this feels uncomfortable, we should still stand up for what we know and believe, he said.


Smith told of one of his former parishioners who, when faced with debating a serious life issue, would say "Holy Spirit, land on my tongue."

Being inoculated happens when we "listen to the words of Christ and allow them to shape our lives."

While Bible studies take place throughout the archdiocese, Smith suggested we listen to God every day. He told of Pope Francis' wanting people to pray before and after meals each day and suggested the audience do the same.


The archbishop also said a Scripture verse will be made available for reflection throughout the Year of Mercy. "I shall tweet out each week an alternative Scripture verse for the week's meal prayers, a verse that will be taken from the Sunday Gospels."

The verse and prayer will also be sent to parishes for inclusion in the weekly Sunday bulletin.

Palliative care physician Dr. Anna Voeuk and author and multiple sclerosis sufferer Mark Pickup brought their personal and professional perspectives to the panel.

Pickup told of writing a directive to his physician saying that should Pickup be in a dire physical state, the physician not listen if he asked the doctor to hasten his death. Pickup said he would only do that if he had "lost his mind."

"I am a Catholic and I need to live and die as a Catholic," he told the audience. His life with MS has been a rollercoaster, and he never knows what his physical shape will be when he wakes up each morning.


His grief was such in the 1980s that if assisted suicide were available, he might have gone through with it.

But if he had, Pickup said, he would not have known the joy and love of his grandchildren. He has also become a well-known advocate for life, writing and traveling to give speeches on the gift of human life.

Pickup described how he grieved over the various losses in his life such as his inability to dance with his wife Rayleen. He found that grief risks becoming depression.

Pickup advised that working through grief was imperative because it was still fluid and allowed for healing. Depression, however, pushed one into a state of stagnation.

The legislation which would allow for physician-assisted suicide also prompted a response from palliative care specialist Voeuk.


She asked audience members if they wanted a "moral and ethical doctor" and was not satisfied until they gave a resounding "Yes."

Confronting the situation of physicians being reluctant to assist in a suicide, she explained the problem inherent in that by giving as an example her experience as a general practitioner in rural Alberta.

Should a woman need a Caesarean section, Voeuk said she was not skilled in that procedure. "I am not a surgeon."

So the patient would require a specialist. Given that logic, should a patient want a physician-hastened death, they would need someone skilled in that procedure.