By Faye Sonier
The Evangelical Fellowship of Canada encourages its friends, affiliates and all Canadian evangelicals to join with Christians across the country for a day of prayer and fasting.
This national day of prayer is taking place on Friday, September 6th, in recognition of the Quebec government’s legislative proposal to legalize euthanasia.
Euthanasia and assisted suicide are currently illegal in Canada, as both actions are proscribed in our Criminal Code as homicide. In a weakly veiled attempt to circumvent federal law, and existing Supreme Court of Canada decisions that affirm the constitutionality of the federal prohibition on these behaviours, the government of Quebec introduced legislation in June 2013 to authorize euthanasia under the guise of “health care.” Under our constitution, criminal law is federal jurisdiction, but health care is provincial jurisdiction.
When the issue was most recently presented to Members of Parliament for consideration and a vote, legalization of the practices was resoundingly rejected. In 2008, MP Francine Lalonde introduced Bill C-384 which sought to amend the Criminal Code to remove the prohibitions against euthanasia and assisted suicide. The Bill was defeated 228 to 59 in the House of Commons.
Despite the obvious issues related to proper jurisdiction, constitutionality, binding precedent and democracy, the government of Quebec has decided to push the issue forward.
Quebec’s Bill 52, An Act respecting end-of-life care, would require all hospitals and healthcare facilities (including hospices, senior citizen’s residences and similar facilities operated by Christian and other faith based organizations) to euthanize citizens possessing Quebec healthcare upon request, provided certain arguably vague criteria are met.
To obfuscate its intentions and to make the idea of euthanizing its citizens more palatable to the general public, the government plays word games in Bill 52. It defines “end of life” care as “palliative care provided to persons at the end of their lives,” which encompasses “terminal palliative sedation” and “medical aid in dying,” both of which are forms of euthanasia.
This position is not consistent with the global palliative care movement’s understanding of palliative care. Palliative care by definition cannot be used to end lives. The government of Quebec’s reframing of palliative care contradicts the World Health Organization’s internationally accepted definition.
The Bill’s use of the term “terminal palliative sedation” is confusing as it is not defined in the Bill. Though the term seems self-explanatory, its use is intended to make euthanasia more palatable to the public by removing the negative connotations associated with the word “euthanasia” and by adding “terminal palliative sedation” to the continuum of currently accepted medical treatment as an extension of palliative sedation, which is currently accepted and practiced for pain management.
The Bill’s clearly intended primary purpose is to establish the right to ending-of-life procedures to be administered by doctors and nurses across the province of Quebec. It does so by adding euthanasia (illegal) to the classification of palliative care (legal) in an effort to merge the two as medical care. It also uses a clever attempt at new terminology (“terminal palliative sedation” and “medical aid in dying”) in an effort to evade Criminal Code liability, as neither expression appears in the Criminal Code and thus are not explicitly prohibited.
Why is this a problem? If a person wants to die and not have their life unnecessarily prolonged, isn’t it a merciful act to end their lives?
In Canada, patients have a right to withdraw consent from treatment, and receive pain alleviating medication in order to die a natural death. Palliative sedation, which is used in cases where pain or symptoms cannot be managed by other means, is also legal.
Compassion is not killing the patient. Compassion is loving the patient, walking with them through their last days, and providing them with the care and support to ease and alleviate the pain and suffering.
In short, the decriminalization of euthanasia requires the societal acceptance of consensual killing and the establishment of a legal obligation on one party to kill another, as is seen in Bill 52. This new obligation would irrevocably change Canadian law’s life-affirming ethos. Our law would indirectly endorse murder and private killings between its citizens. And, Canadians under medical care – in hospitals, hospices and nursing homes – will have just cause to wonder whether the next step is freeing up their bed for someone healthier or better able to pay the bills – at least that’s how similar provisions have devolved in other countries.
This is a matter that concerns all Canadians, not simply those who live in Quebec. Should Quebec pass the law, and the federal government fail to intervene in order to uphold its Criminal Code prohibitions, it won’t be long before other provinces propose similar legislation.
For more information on euthanasia and assisted suicide, please visit www.theEFC.ca/euthanasia. The EFC will also be releasing a detailed analysis of Bill 52 in the coming days.
Please encourage your prayer groups and congregations to join us in prayer this Friday.