Al Postma, transitional executive director-Canada for the Christian Reformed Church in North America, was one of 51 Christian ministry leaders to sign a “Christian Leaders Statement” organized by the Evangelical Fellowship of Canada against hastened death by medical means. The Canadian government refers to this as “medical assistance in dying.”
“As followers of Jesus, we share a deep and profound commitment to the sanctity of all human life,” the statement says. “Human life is being devalued and discarded when people in vulnerable situations among us are not being supported to live, but facilitated to die.”
Since 2016 Canada has had legislation granting access to medical assistance to end one’s life for individuals experiencing “intolerable suffering” and for whom there was a "reasonable foreseeability of natural death." After constitutional challenges, that stipulation is no longer required and the choice of MAiD is available “to relieve intolerable suffering, regardless of proximity to natural death.”
The law is set to expand again to make the program available to those for whom the suffering is not physical but mental illness, but that legislation has been delayed.
In October the Evangelical Fellowship of Canada presented the statement to its members and partners. It was released publicly Feb. 21.
“We lament hastened death in Canada. We grieve the expansion in law that has made those whose death is not reasonably foreseeable eligible for hastened death, and that soon will include people with mental illness as their only underlying medical condition,” the letter says.
The statement affirms four things including the love of God for all persons; the duty of care we owe to one another; the importance of holistic care; and that love, care, and comfort are the appropriate responses to suffering. “We advocate,” the signers say, “for universally accessible, high-quality palliative care for those facing life-limiting diagnosis or nearing death; for accessible and adequate services and support for Canadians living with disability, chronic illness or mental illness, including safe, secure and affordable housing; for better home care and extended care; and for the protection of conscience for those who cannot accept hastened death as a form of medical care.”
The letter also commits supporters “to mobilize our communities to care for and comfort those who are suffering and alone, in their neighbourhoods, towns and cities; and to ensure people with disability, chronic illness and mental health struggles are welcomed into full participation and belonging in our churches and communities.”
Postma informed the Canada ministry board (formerly called the CRCNA Canada Corporation) about his decision to sign the letter at its Feb. 16 meeting. Mike Hogeterp, director of the CRCNA’s Centre for Public Dialogue, responded to questions at that meeting about resources for Christian Reformed members in Canada concerned about the proliferation of medical assisted death, saying “capacity is a question.” The Centre, whose ministry plan is approved each year by the board, chooses to focus on specific matters so it might be “an inch wide and a mile deep. In spaces where we don’t have resources, we have partners such as the Evangelical Fellowship, with whom we network,” Hogeterp said.
The resources from the Evangelical Fellowship of Canada include updates on the Canadian government’s review of Medical Assistance in Dying legislation and an action kit to halt expansion of MAID to include mental illness alone.