By Mark Pickup
Editor’s note. Mr. Pickup, who has multiple sclerosis, is a Canadian disability rights activist who has spoken at National Right to Life’s annual convention.
In early June, Canada will enter a new dark chapter in its history: Legalized medical killing by euthanasia and assisted suicide.
As the law is being prepared for passage, I was invited to give input to the Parliamentary Standing Committee on Justice and Human Rights. (The assisted suicide bill is euphemistically labelled “medical assistance in dying.”)
I wish with all my heart things had not come to this point where medical killing is being legalized for suicidal sick and disabled people whose deaths are, as the bill states, “reasonably foreseeable” (whatever that means).
From what I can determine, most MPs have bought into the false compassion of medically-assisted suicide. Barring a miracle, Canada is going to legalize assisted suicide.
I began my input by stating my outright opposition to any legislation that weakens protections for vulnerable life, like mine. I told the committee that I meet virtually all the criteria of the “grievous and irremediable medical condition” mentioned in the draft legislation to qualify for assisted suicide.
I have a serious and incurable illness that has severely disabled me. After 32 years with aggressive and incurable disease, I am now in an advanced state of irreversible decline. My disease has caused enduring physical and psychological suffering. There have been times when my state seemed intolerable.
If similar legislation had been available back in the mid-1980s, when my grief was at its height, I might have taken my life. Things were that horrible.
Happily, throughout the decades, I have been surrounded by the love of my wife and family, my faith community and my God. They lifted up my value as someone worth protecting and cherishing, even when I doubted my own value. I am so happy today that I did not opt for suicide. I never would have known my five beautiful grandchildren.
Medically-assisted death is not palliative care. Assisted suicide is a profound abandonment of people at the very time they need our most tender care.
There are two deaths that occur in helping someone kill themselves. The first death happens within the suicidal person when others agree their life is unworthy of living.
The second death occurs with the actual deed. (There is also a third death: It is the death of conscience in the person who assists in the suicide.)
Canada does not need more suicide. Canada needs the best palliative care available to all Canadians at their point of need and that brought me to my first recommendation for amendments to the proposed law.
I asked the parliamentary committee to include an amendment to recognize and fortify Charter guarantees of freedom of conscience and religion and their expression.
FREEDOM OF CONSCIENCE
Physicians, nurses, and pharmacists who have profound conscientious or religious objections to participating in euthanasia or assisted suicide must not be forced into it or be required to refer patients to doctors who are willing to kill. This must be unequivocal in the legislation. Such emphatic recognition of religious freedom is a hallmark of a pluralistic society.
It is critically important to restate in the legislation the fundamental recognition of the supremacy of the Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedoms’ guarantee of freedom of conscience and religion, and its expression.
From a Catholic point of view, Canada’s Supreme Court decision for assisted suicide legitimized something intrinsically evil. Practising and devout Catholic doctors, nurses and pharmacists simply cannot comply.
The law must recognize this and exempt medical professionals with conscientious objections and curtail provincial governments or professional associations from imposing participation in assisted suicide or forcing them to refer patients for assisted suicide.
That brought me to my second recommendation to the federal government.
In the emerging climate of state-sanctioned medical killing, there must be places of safe haven for people like me, and my family, where we know euthanasia and assisted suicide are not practised. Those places of safe haven are Catholic hospitals.
EVIDENCE OF CHRIST’S LOVE
People like me need to live and die within an environment where the love of Jesus Christ is evident and the teachings of the Catholic faith are paramount. Without Catholic hospitals that refuse to participate in euthanasia, people like me will begin to fear hospitals and nursing homes.
There are plenty of doctors and nurses willing to euthanize suicidal patients in secular health care institutions. I don’t want them.
My family and I need to know I can go someplace to receive care that will not acquiesce to euthanasia or assisted suicide – even if I request it because of depression, feeling I am a burden, or multiple sclerosis has affected my mental state.
This first appeared at the Western Catholic Reporter.