OTTAWA, Ontario (CNS) — Pro-life and other groups joined forces to denounce a bill governing end-of-life care introduced by the Quebec government June 12 as a form of Belgian-style euthanasia.
“This is about doctors lethally injecting patients,” said Alex Schadenberg, executive director of Euthanasia Prevention Coalition, echoing the concerns of several organizations, including the Catholic Organization for Life.
Schadenberg said the bill redefines palliative care to include “terminal medical sedation” and “medical aid in dying,” which he called a euphemism for euthanasia.
The draft legislation, Bill 52, would allow a doctor who receives the repeated consent of a patient to administer medication to cause death. The patient must be a Quebec resident with a valid provincial medicare card.
If the bill becomes law, it will be the first of its kind in Canada to legalize physician-assisted suicide.
Schadenberg urged the Canadian government to challenge the bill. “It’s not the jurisdiction of the Quebec government to legalize a form of homicide,” he said.
In a statement, Justice Minister Rob Nicholson promised the federal government would “review the implications of Quebec’s proposed legislation on physician-assisted suicide and euthanasia.”
“The laws that prohibit euthanasia and assisted suicide exist to protect all Canadians, including those who are potentially the most vulnerable, such as people who are sick or elderly, and people with disabilities,” Nicholson said.
He noted that a Canada Supreme Court decision in 1993 upheld criminal code provisions against assisted suicide. Nicholson also recalled the 2010 vote by a “large majority” of members of the Canadian parliament not to legalize euthanasia or assisted suicide.
The Catholic Organization for Life and Family said in a statement that it “radically opposes” the Quebec legislation, describing it as “an unjust bill that will bring about dramatic consequences for all Quebeckers.”
“There is nothing humane or compassionate in killing another person,” COLF said.
COLF called the bill’s “right to end-of-life care” as a “right to euthanasia.”
While the legislation lists several requirements that must be met before a patient is deemed eligible for euthanasia, COLF’s statement pointed out that a patient does not have to try other treatment options before requesting it. “It will be sufficient for the patient to experience ‘constant and unbearable physical or psychological pain which cannot be relieved in a manner the person deems tolerable,'” the statement said.
COLF stressed evidence from Belgium showing the continuing rise in euthanasia from 235 cases in 2003, to 1,133 cases in 2011, according to a 2012 study by the European Institute of Bioethics.
“Euthanasia is gradually becoming a normal and commonplace act that patients are entitled to have,” COLF said, quoting the study.
The Physicians Alliance for Total Refusal of Euthanasia and Living with Dignity, a Quebec-based network opposing euthanasia, issued a joint-statement condemning the bill, saying “the government is pushing Quebeckers onto a dangerous path by creating a so-called ‘right-to-die.'”
“(The bill) is dangerous, discriminatory and opposed to social justice,” said Dr. Marc Beauchamp of the alliance. “At a time when Quebeckers are rightly concerned about the scourge of elder abuse, it would be very naive to think that euthanasia, the ultimate abuse, will not become a growing threat to the most vulnerable.”
“Quebeckers already have the right to refuse or discontinue treatment,” said Michel Racicot, a retired lawyer and Living with Dignity board member. “They already have the right to say ‘no’ to overtreatment and to receive effective painkillers, and, if necessary, sedation to reduce their pain. These actions have nothing to do with euthanasia.”
“We’re trying to legalize euthanasia by confusing people,” he added.
While the bill proposes safeguards to protect “free and informed” consent for “medical aid in dying,” no safeguards are required for “terminal palliative sedation.” Such a step, if undertaken with the intent to kill a patient, is classified as homicide under the criminal code, Racicot explained.
“If you legalize terminal palliative sedation with intent, it is an admission of failure of the Quebec medical system to alleviate pain, whether physical, psychological or moral, and it’s a failure of our families to be around those who are at the end of life,” he said.
Join the CatholicPhilly.com family
CatholicPhilly.com works to strengthen the connections between people, families and communities every day by delivering the news people need to know about the Catholic Church, especially in the Philadelphia region, and the world in which we live.
By your donation in any amount, you and hundreds of other people become part of our mission to inform, form in the Catholic faith and inspire the thousands of readers who visit every month.
Here is how you can help:
- A $100 gift allows us to present award-winning photos of Catholic life in our neighborhoods.
- A $50 gift enables us to cover a news event in a local parish, school or Catholic institution.
- A $20 gift lets us obtain solid faith formation resources that can deepen your spirituality and knowledge of the faith.
- A small, automated monthly donation means you can support us continually and easily.
Won't you consider making a gift today?
Please join in the church's vital mission of communications by offering a gift in whatever amount that you can ― a single gift of $40, $50, $100, or more, or a monthly donation. Your gift will strengthen the fabric of our entire Catholic community and sustain CatholicPhilly.com as your trusted news source. Thank you in advance!
Make your donation by credit card here:
Or make your donation by check:
222 N. 17th Street
Philadelphia, PA 19103
PREVIOUS: In announcing new encyclical, Pope Francis reveals his decisive style
NEXT: What the pope’s leaked comments really tells us about the church
Share this story