Faith Leaders Call on New Canadian Government to Focus on Palliative Care Instead of Assisted Suicide

Faith leaders from 30 Christian denominations, along with over 20 Jewish and Muslim leaders from across Canada, signed on to a Declaration on Euthanasia and Assisted Suicide released last week as Canada’s Liberal party prepares to form a new federal government.

The declaration comes as a response to a Supreme Court ruling earlier in 2015 that struck down laws prohibiting physician-assisted suicide. Members of Christian Reformed churches were asked then to contact their Members of Parliament and provincial representatives, encouraging them to craft legislation that emphasizes palliative care—including aggressive pain management—but that also strongly protects vulnerable people, including those with disabilities.

The declaration, written by the Canadian Conference of Catholic Bishops and the Evangelical Fellowship of Canada (EFC), reiterates that message. The CRC in Canada is a member of EFC. Canadian Ministries Director Darren Roorda signed the declaration on behalf of the CRC.

“We are convinced the only ways to help people live and die with dignity are: to ensure they are supported by love and care; to provide holistic care which includes pain control as well as psychological, spiritual and emotional support; and, to improve and increase resources in support of palliative and home care,” the declaration states. “Health care systems must maintain a life-affirming ethos. Medical professionals are trained to restore and enhance life. They are not trained or expected to administer death. Any change in this regard would fundamentally distort the doctor/patient relationship.”

The Supreme Court has given lawmakers one year to draft new legislation. There are signs that the new Liberal government may ask for a six-month extension.

The Christian Reformed Church addressed end of life issues when Synod 2000 (the annual leadership meeting of the CRC) adopted a resolution urging churches to encourage government allocation of funding for adequate palliative services; encourage government initiatives that allow medical treatment aimed at pain relief, even if that treatment may unintentionally shorten life; and encourage government initiatives that promote life-affirming legislation and oppose legislation that endorses assisted suicide or mercy killing.

Related:

CRC Members Urged to Respond to Supreme Court Ruling on Assisted Suicide
Report on End of Life Issues: See Synod Resources “End of Life Issues”

About the Author

Gayla Postma is news editor for The Banner.

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