Canadian Christians Look for Euthanasia Alternatives

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As legislation to legalize euthanasia and assisted suicide makes its way through the Canadian Parliament, the Christian Reformed Church’s Disability Concerns ministry issued an action alert asking church members to contact their Members of Parliament (M.P.).

“[The legislation] poses danger to people with disabilities,” explained Rev. Mark Stephenson, the director of that ministry.

M.P. Francine Lalonde introduced a bill called the Right to Die with Dignity Act, seeking to amend Canada’s criminal code to legalize euthanasia and assisted suicide.

According to the action alert, the bill contains appealing notions such as dignity and relief from suffering, “making euthanasia seem like an act of compassion. Without measurable standards, the most vulnerable in society, including some people with disabilities, are left without protection,” explained Catherine Cooper from the Christian Reformed Office of Social Justice and Hunger Action, who prepared the alert.

Conservative M.P. David Sweet spoke to this, saying, “at best this bill can be called irresponsible. Wouldn’t we be better off as a society discussing how to comfort those in pain, to support the families that are struggling with caring for a terminally ill family member, or how we can better support the valiant efforts of nurses and doctors who are providing hospice care across this country?”

Hon. John McKay, a Liberal M.P and an evangelical Christian, agreed, stating that “there will be mistakes made—society’s mistakes. We should be extraordinarily leery of Bill C-384, but the larger issue really is that we don’t think maturely about the end of life. We may be prematurely terminating lives when there really are other issues at hand.”

According to the action alert, the CRC is clear in its position on the subject of euthanasia and assisted suicide, affirming that “life is both a gift and a commitment, even in times of great suffering. The role of the church is to reach out to those for whom the gift of life has become a burden, to show the compassion of Christ in those times, and to link hands as a community with the suffering and dying.”

(The Christian Reformed Church has made no formal statement on euthanasia. However a report on end-of-life issues presented to Synod 2000 was referred to the churches as pastoral advice. The report can be found in the Agenda for Synod 2000, available on the denomination’s website at www.crcna.org/pages/synodical.cfm.)

Mike Hogeterp, Research and Communications Manager for the Committee for Contact with the Government for the CRC in Canada explained, “CCG has seen great value in encouraging legislators to consider alternatives in debates like this. And the CRC does just that by emphasizing responsibility and community at the end of life, (i.e. a strong commitment to palliative care).”

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