A fortnight ago, Quebec's junior health minister Véronique Hivon announced that the provincial government is moving ahead with legislation aimed at permitting “dying with dignity.”
In the ensuing days, reaction was swift, both for and against this physician-assisted suicide and euthanasia bill that the government wishes to have in place before the summer break.
The following is a collection of articles and opinion appearing In Montreal's The Gazette - a daily publication, offering both a summary and links to each, where possible.
January 16: “End-of-life rules to be set out in new law,” Kevin Dougherty, A2.
This article treats the legislative and judiciary angles to Quebec’s proposed legislation for assisted suicide. After citing previous Canadian cases, the article presents the provincial government’s goal, based on a recently released study indicating what course to go. Also discussed is how the federal criminal code will be circumvented to permit.
Jan 16: “Not everyone agrees with panel’s controversial findings,” Katherine Wilton, A2.
The author presents several perspectives on physician-assisted suicide. First she summarizes the context as set by the provincial government for pursuing physician-assisted suicide program. From here she moves to treat the importance expanding palliative care services. A first physician is quoted acknowledging that the patient and no one else ought to decide. Next, a legal point is made about proper wording the legislation as not euthanasia nor assisted suicide but “dying with dignity.” Finally, a second palliative doctor is claimed to be an advocate as siding with euthanasia.
Jan 17: “Physician-assisted death will have tight rules,” Katherine Wilton, A8.
This article considers who the clients will be that benefit from the proposed legislation on physician-assisted suicide. It begins by citing a case in Oregon where the patient, a physician makes the decision for physician-assisted suicide. A second case concerns two Belgian twins who opted for death upon learning that they are going blind. Finally, the article ends by profiling the rules in the Quebec proposed legislation.
Jan 17: “A choice the terminally ill should be able to make,” The Gazette’s View, A18.
The Gazette’s editorial board describes as «sensible» the plans of the Quebec government to permit “people with debilitating terminal maladies the right to choose when and how to die.” The editorial rests its case on the report by a panel of “eminent legal experts” Furthermore, it claims that this course of action is endorsed by Quebecers, both in general and the professional ranks.
Jan 18: “A creeping culture of death,” Sherif Emil MD, Opinion, A15.
In this opinion piece, pediatric surgeon, Dr. Emil argues against the provincial government’s plan to enact legislation permitting physician-assisted suicide. The crux of his argument rests on his several decade experience of practicing in Quebec – from a student to working in the Montreal Children’s Hospital. In this period he has seen a degradation of the provincial health care network and that placing the patient in the position to decide his own fate is unfair particularly as it applies to children. Additional comments are made about the adverse moral stance of physicians and the ill-begotten Belgian model on which the Quebec one is based.
Jan 19: “Your Views” presents five letters with varying opinions on the proposed legislative course of the provincial government.
- William Raillant-Clark (re jan18)
Addressing the Emil article, the writer argues that individual rights trump whatever state the health care network is performing at.
- Dr. J.C .Pecknold… loss of dignity, intrinsic value of human life (re jan17)
The writer, a physician, argues against the proposed legislation as it would place members of his profession in an unethical position. Other comments about the importance of palliative care and the intrinsic value of human life are made.
- Robert Marcogliese (re jan17)
The author focuses on semantics, stating that “assisted-suicide” in not the same as “dying with dignity.”
- Shalom Spira (re jan17)
Mr. Spira questions under what authority can the government proceed with its stated course of action.
- Helene Bolduc, President, Association Quebecoise pour le droit de mourir dans la dignite (re jan15)
Ms. Bolduc takes up the individual rights argument in end-of-life matters. Further, she appears to wish to enlarge the scope of who could avail of the proposed legislaltion.
Jan 22: “No role for palliative care in euthanasia,” Dr. Manuel Borod, A16.
Addressing the article written by Mr. Dougherty (Jan16), Dr. Borod writes so as to clarify points that are confusing, misleading, and false. First, he states that the only new matter in the proposed legislation is the “right to have medical assistance in dying.” Second he notes that the end of palliative sedation is not the death of the patient as the article states but care that not “necessarily hastens death.” Finally, he states as Director of the division of Supportive and Palliative Care that the current objective “that all our patients die with dignity” and that the proposed legislation is a smokescreen for allowing “an act that directly causes death.”
Jan 23: “Euthanasia would be better than how my mother died,” Dianne Laheurte, Opinion, A17.
Dianne Laheurte writes in favour of euthanasia. She describes the death of her mother over a four year period, one characterized by gradual deterioration and adverse emotional impact on her and both of her parents.
I find Mr. Spina’s observation interesting - what authority does the provincial government have to proceed with this legislative initiative. For example, the briefs presented at the “Dying with Dignity” provincial tour overwhelming favoured a course toward improved palliative care to the exclusion of both euthanasia or assisted suicide, many of whom were from the medical profession.
On the topic of dignity, it seems that dignity already exists in the care for those who are terminally ill. Drs. Emil and Borod write about this and both are well placed to know.
Also, it seems that if life lacks a certain quality about it, then it is not worth living. Hence individuals do want to be hindered in ending their lives.
Under the guise of promoting our rights and freedoms, the Barreau du Québec is endorsing the culture of death.
The video by the body responsible for overseeing professional legal practice in the province - Le Barreau du Québec, shows a young woman upset with the positive results of a pregnancy test. The words "abortion rights" appear at the end of the segment.
Later on in the thirty second clip destined for television audiences, the video shows a bedroom setting in which an elderly weakened man and his family grieving over his diminishing health. The caption "dying with dignity" fades in.
As an astute commentator wondered whether (and how many of) the Barreau's membership was consulted about the views aired in this add.
The Euthanasia Prevention Coalition (EPC) is launching a project aimed responsible health care - Declaration of Hope.
EPC Executive Director Alex Schadenberg writes that "... the Declaration of HOPE (is) to convince political leaders that Canadians want positive responses to difficult life conditions, not euthanasia or assisted suicide."
Please sign the Declaration of HOPE and forward the link to the Declaration of HOPE to all of your friends and contacts.
An open letter to all Canadian Parliamentarians written by the EPC may be found here.
The following interview comes from the Zenit news service. Written originally in Italian by H. Sergio Mora, it was translated by Oceane Le Gall into French and from French into English by Google Translator; I tweeked the final version.
ROME, Tuesday, Nov. 20, 2012 (ZENIT.org) - Human embryo based cosmetics, rampant euthanasia that ever gradually instills itself by "way of omission," rather than by the rule of law, and the cultural tendency to consider the patient like an oil well: all of these topics solicit the attention of the World Federation of the Catholic Medical Associations (FIAMC).
And among all these questions, one must not be forgotten, that relating to the problems of life from conception, says the president of the FIAMC, Mr. Jose Maria Simon, to the readers of Zenit during a break at the meeting of the Pontifical Council for Health Pastoral Care, the European Congress of Catholic Doctors (AMCI - FEAMC), the Italian Catholic Doctors Association (AMCI) and participants of the International Conference of Catholic hospitals, which took place last Saturday, November 17, in Paul VI Hall in the Vatican.
Zenit - Dr. Simon, first tell us what is the World Federation of the Catholic Medical Associations?
Jose Maria Simon - This is an old institution of Pontifical Law, that forms doctors on ethical issues, doctors as well as students and medical personnel. We also cooperate on issues related to maternity. Our work extends to the largest possible number of countries and international organizations, so that our Christian vision of medicine can be better understood and accepted.
Are there new challenges for today's medicine?
Yes, there are, but still around the same issues: not seeing his neighbor as a source of income; the defense of life from conception until natural death, and the transmission of life; respect for the dead or embryo death, which nonetheless still remains a symbol of the deceased and can not be used as we see fit.
What most worries Catholic doctors today?
To see embryonic tissue from fetuses used to make cosmetics, worries us considerably. This is a very serious thing, but that happens, and costs a lot to get evidence. When you accuse a company, it knows well how to defend itself, through lawyers and journalists. It is therefore very difficult to make specific charges; yet the facts are there, these worry us, and they must be fought.
Is there any real hope?
We expect a lot of this Charter for the medical profession, which for us is like a new Code of Ethics, the second version of which is in the process of being prepared by the Pontifical Council for Health Pastoral Care and the Sacred Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith. The first was already rich in points, while the second will be updated to reflect medical changes.
We just talked about natural death and respect for life. What can you say about it?
There is first the problem of euthanasia which seems to be progressing, not so much in legislations but rather in practice. Currently, in many countries, we practice euthanasia by omission. Someone decides for you: family, an oncologist and so on, they determine that your life is over, it is not worth the trouble to live, so the person is sedated and dies.
So, death is induced?
Yes, and sometimes unnecessarily. It is important to understand that the mission of the physician is to eliminate the pain, the anguish, the suffering, and this must of course be done with all possible means, but without precipitating death, as it is very well stated in the Catechism of the Catholic Church, about euthanasia - prohibited is every action taken to avoid suffering, procures death.
Alas, this practice is gaining ground and progresses as the culture of death progresses in various areas: judicial, legislative, media, culture, including art, and so on ...
So the question is not only religious in nature?
There are many doctors in the world who respect human life, Catholic or otherwise, who need the support and arguments on which to build.
And where do we find these arguments?
We have a lot of resources on our website - links, public statements, taken from our conference where we work with scientific publications, present progresses, science, and social studies, and interface with the media.
With Catholic doctors, we pray. We provide an ecumenical space and ethical training in medical problems. Congresses are very useful, even the free time during which it is possible to consult a colleague so as to understand how thinking on a particular issue varies from one country to another.
How are aggressive therapies lived out today?
This is something that must be fought. Any medicine, whether offical or lay, Catholic or other churches agree that abuses exist. In fact, sometimes, certain diagnoses or therapies are disproportionate to the results that may be expected.
And what of the transmission of life?
We are worried about that too. The Encyclical Humanae Vitae presents a very good doctrine in the sense that it solves a lot of the problems. Who respects it, respects his wife, and is faithful, does not kill his children via abortion, does not beget them in vitro, but procreates them naturally, and respects the fact that the embryo may die naturally.
The Humanae Vitae is the way to go?
Absolutely, it is prophetic. It may be found on the FIAMC website. Also, we are currently preparing a second document which can help a Lutheran for example. I hope that next year, on the anniversary date of the propagation of the Apostolic Letter Mulieris dignitatem, it is possible to spread this scientific paper that supports the encyclical.
What has the FIAMC brought to the synod?
FIAMC has received more than it has given. We were able to attend the meeting of the Synod of Bishops, speak with each as well as with auditors. We met with the Catholic Medical Associations of different countries and made ourselves known. Not to mention the honor of being in contact with the Holy Father. Yet what we mainly did at the Synod was pray and in itself this was very helpful.
About abortion, today there is a lot more information and matters are clearer, yet the practice is still widespread ...
Abortion is a topic that we studied extensively. Unfortunately when the devil enters something, it is difficult to resolve it by laws or arguments; we need help from on High.
Today science clearly shows that human life can be supressed...
Today more than ever we know that from the first moment of conception, the life is a separate being, distinct from father and mother, developing in a coordinated manner, progressive, who needs "fuel" and that implanting in the mother's womb, so as to take this fuel and grow to become one of us.
Concerning embryos, is there less public awareness ...
Yes, awareness is less, although we have a visible human form. I think conscience is hindered by evil.
The cryopreserved also have human form?
Genetically, they have a human form; their DNA says: this is a human being. Here, too, conscience is blinded by evil; everyone can understand that this embryo is a human being, microscopically.
In conclusion, what is key to properly treating a patient?
I believe that good professional competence consists much more in treating patients as brothers, as children, and parents, rather than as oil wells.
The Canadian Society of Palliative Care Physicians (CSPCP) recently published a paper opposing the legalization of euthanasia and assisted suicide and instead promoting the development of palliative care in Canada.
A survey of the CSPCP also shows that a majority of its members do not support euthanasia or assisted suicide.
The Canadian Society of Palliative Care Physicians (CSPCP) represents nearly 300 member physicians who provide care to the dying. Our mission is to advance the quality of life of our patients and their families. The survey used the definitions and glossary of the Quebec National Assembly for clarification and standardization.
Definitions are as follows:
Euthanasia - "An act that consists of deliberately causing the death of another person to put an end to that person's suffering."
Assisted Suicide - "The act of helping someone commit suicide by providing the means or the information on how to proceed, or both."
Almost half (46%) of CSPCP members responded to the survey, and the overwhelming majority were OPPOSED to the legalization of euthanasia (88%) or assisted suicide (80%).
* 90% of responding members would not be willing to participate in the act of euthanasia.
* 83% of responding members would not be willing to aid in assisted suicide.
Based upon the survey results, the Canadian Society of Palliative Care. Physicians strongly oppose the legalization of euthanasia and assisted suicide at this time, and most of its members are unwilling to participate in euthanasia or assisted suicide.
Thank God for the decision of the Canadian Society of Palliative Care Physicians! We need more doctors that adhere to the values of compassion and care.
Blessed Easter season to you.
Our Lord has risen. From the tomb come our birth, our light, our forgiveness, our hope, our joy, and our life.
Praise be to Our Lord and Saviour, Jesus Christ!
The victory is ours…
… yet there are battles that remain.
Revivifying Quebec Society
One such battle is tormenting our fellow citizens. It is the lost of hope and the signs are many.
Abortions continue. Many have turned their back on life and relationships; these are viewed as disposable, replaceable. And in so doing, they are scarred in the process – scarred psychologically, physically, and spiritually. Over 30 000 per year rends havoc in the women themselves and in then in those around her. I recently read that ten people are affected with each abortion.
Suicide remains the hidden topic. A rare newspaper article, the Journal de Montréal treated the rise in suicide among our seniors.
And assisted suicide and euthanasia has gained greater advocacy. The recently released report from the Death with Dignity Committee included a most worrisome recommendation - that the Quebec Government not prosecute physicians who help terminally ill patients to die.
So, the value of life has been lost to many of our fellow Quebeckers.
(It makes one wonder what has become of the once-familiar motto – "Joie de Vivre.")
Que se passe-t-il au Québec? (What's going on in Québec?)
Elsewhere in our society we are witnessing an indignant student movement, perturbed by legislation that will impact not only the level of their indebtedness upon finishing school but also, and more fundamentally, whether they will be able to go on with their studies.
Quebecers are also confronted with how their provincial government does business, particularly in the construction industry. The Charbonneau Commission is investigating how contracts are awarded and we have already seen arrests being made.
Absence of Religious Reflection
Yet, to many of us in the pro-life movement what concerns is the dearth of any religious reflection in these and other matters. We see a climate that has ignored and, more strongly, scorned and vilified appeal to divine assistance.
For example, during the just concluded "40 Days for Life" prayer vigil, I witnessed numerous instances of abusive behaviour directed towards me and many with whom I prayed. Also, I was told of similar occurrences during my absences. Yes, the notion of restrictions is a cause of this aggression but also the fact that we are, heavens forbid, are praying perturbed many of our fellow citizens. The implication by many is that prayer is outdated and belongs to a former era.
Yet the same vigil witnessed the participation of over 250 centres of prayer from around the world - including nine others in Canada, resulting in over 880 children saved from the scourge of abortion.
We at the Quebec Life Coalition, with your support, are ever present in this battle to promote hope.
We have begun a sidewalk counselling program and telephone help line to combat the scourge of abortion.
We seek to inform you daily via blogs on these and other topics.
Organizing a three day faith service in early May; and
Participate in a Christian March in early June to foster our Faith.
So, whether setting out on our own or in collaboration with other groups in Quebec, the rest of Canada, and in the United States, we hope to sprinkle seeds of hope within Quebec.
Thank you for your continued support.
Coordinator for English and Multicultural Community Outreach
Quebec Life Coalition
With the court proceedings on the legality of euthanasia in Canada currently under way in British Columbia, I found the following three news stories insightful, in addition to the one appearing on our own site (see November 14), to contextualize the issues of euthanasia and assisted-suicide.
The first two are commentaries, appearing in yesterday's Journal de Montréal. First, Richard Martineau is critical of the recent study released by the Royal Society of Canada (RSC) advocating for the decriminalization of euthanasia and assisted suicide. According to Martineau, the RSC study lacks "encadrage" - i.e., properly defining the circumstances permitting end-of-life decisions. Abuses are inevitable, he writes, drawing examples from the United States and Switzerland.
Yet what worries Mr. Martineau the most is euthanising persons for economic rather than humanitarian reasons.
Second, Jean-Luc Mongrain, in "La vie à quel prix?", raises both philosophical and theological questions concerning end-of-life issues. So, unlike his peer who favours euthanasia, Mr. Mongrain is indeterminate.
The third article covers the release on Wednesday of a bi-partisan Parlimentary ad hoc committee report advocating for an improved emphasis on palliative care. In addition to delving into the report, Peter Baklinski at LifeSiteNews weaves together the events in British Columbia, the study of the RSC, and a couple of interviews, including quotes from Jean Vanier, in his article.
I hope these three stories prove helpful to better understand current events and the issues involved.