The House of Commons voted on May 31 to send the government’s doctor-hastened death bill to the Senate in the hopes of meeting the Supreme Court’s deadline for legislation on June 6. We reached out to three anti-euthanasia organizations for their insights on the debate.
Ian Gentles is the Research Director of the deVeber Institute for Bioethics, an institute researching informed social responses to human life questions.
Christian Domenic Elia is the Executive Director of the Catholic Civil Rights League (CCRL), an organization committed to the Catholic Church’s voice to issues of public debate.
Larry Worthen is the Executive Director of the Christian Medical and Dental Society (CMDS), an organization comprised of Christian physicians, dentists and students across Canada.
1. What do you think Bill C-14 needs to include?
Ian Gentles (deVeber): Bill C-14 needs to include adequate protection of the conscience rights of medical practitioners. This means the right not to be obliged to refer anyone for medical assistance in dying. To refer is to be complicit in the act, and is therefore a violation of the conscience of any medical practitioner who objects on grounds of conscience to having to provide medical assistance in dying.
Christian Domenic Elia (CCRL): It’s not a matter of what needs to be included. As long as it includes changing Hippocratic medical practices to a new regime of euthanasia and assisted suicide, which it does, it is in its essence, evil and unsupportable.
Larry Worthen (CMDS): Our Coalition is opposed to the legalization of assisted suicide and euthanasia.
2. What protections/safeguards are missing from the conversation?
Ian Gentles (deVeber): There are inadequate protections and safeguards against sick, elderly, and vulnerable people being pressured into accepting “assistance in dying.”
Christian Domenic Elia (CCRL): There are no such things as protections/safeguards when a law seeks to erase the line between dying and being killed.
Larry Worthen (CMDS): From our research in other jurisdictions, we have concluded that “safeguards” are simply sales tools to convince the public to support assisted suicide and euthanasia. Eventually all safeguards end up being circumvented in permissive jurisdictions. Isolated seniors, people with disabilities and people with mental health concerns will eventually be vulnerable to believing that their life is not worth living, even though it is often societies fault for failing to provide them with sufficient support.
3. What is your biggest concern about the direction we’re headed?
Ian Gentles (deVeber): We are headed towards a culture of death in which suicide will be glorified, and in which those who try to prevent people from committing suicide will no longer be regarded as performing a virtuous act.
Christian Domenic Elia (CCRL): I am concerned about the continued devaluation of human life as a culture of death becomes even more prevalent.
Larry Worthen (CMDS): It will result in the normalization of suicide.
4. What is the unseen opportunity in the direction we’re headed?
Ian Gentles (deVeber): The unseen opportunity is to improve the service of good quality palliative care. The government needs to commit to making good quality palliative care available to every Canadian. If this is done the demand for medical assistance in dying will virtually evaporate.
Christian Domenic Elia (CCRL): The Church could encourage peaceful civil disobedience in defiance of C-14, ensuring the refusal of Catholic hospitals and healthcare centres to participate in this evil. Catholic institutions could then be the only safe places or islands of refuge from the new regime of euthanasia/assisted suicide.
Larry Worthen (CMDS): We need to dialogue with our society about our belief in life after death through our faith in Jesus Christ. Only this will bring hope for those who are lonely, isolated and lacking proper love, care and support. We need to create places of care which will demonstrate to the world that Christians love those in need in order to provide hope for a world which is tempted to despair.
5. Understanding that the Supreme Court has already legalized medically assisted dying, what is your long-term advocacy strategy moving forward?
Ian Gentles (deVeber): The long-term strategy must be to fight for good palliative care for all Canadians, instead of just 30% as at present. It must also be to continue to warn Canadians about the awful example of Holland and Belgium where hundreds of competent people are put to death each year without their knowledge or consent.
Christian Domenic Elia (CCRL): We will defend those who act in defiance of this morally illicit law.
Larry Worthen (CMDS): We will be advocating for increased conscience protection for caregivers.
6. How can ordinary Canadians who are against Bill C-14 weigh in on the discussion now?
Ian Gentles (deVeber): We can tell our MPs that we must have good palliative care for all, and that conscience rights for medical practitioners must be respected, and that there must be ‘safe spaces’ in the form of hospitals and palliative care institutions where medically assisted dying is not practised.
Christian Domenic Elia (CCRL): I encourage ordinary Canadians not to be fooled by faint hopes of the Senate instituting conscience rights for healthcare workers via an amendment. The truth is that so many amendments have already been rejected by parliament. To suggest that a Catholic MP should support C-14 is madness, even with a fabled senate amendment. We must prepare to disobey C-14 and we must prepare to help defend our institutions and those who work in them from coercion.
Larry Worthen (CMDS): They can go to our website CanadiansforConscience.ca and send a letter to their Senators asking for conscience protection for physicians and medical professionals. No one should be forced to participate in assisted suicide and euthanasia against their moral convictions.