To the Honourable Members of the Senate and the Members of the House of Commons
The Catholic Organization for Life and Family (COLF) would like to take this opportunity to express its strong opposition to Bill C-407, which is about to be discussed by the Canadian Parliament. The Bill was proposed by Ms. Francine Lalonde and adopted upon first reading last June.
This new attempt to legalize euthanasia and assisted suicide clearly contradicts fundamental Canadian values, and constitutes a real threat to the most vulnerable members of our society. Such a law would also threaten the foundation of our society and of medicine, which strives to heal the patient and which supposes a relationship of trust between the doctor and the patient.
We ask you to reject Bill C-407 and instead encourage the government to devote more resources to home care, palliative care and research on pain control, so that Canadian society is able to respond to the needs of its most vulnerable citizens in a truly human way.
Under the pretext of "compassion," and supposedly to ensure a "dignified" death for those persons who request it, Bill C-407 would establish blatant discrimination with respect to those with less autonomy and those at the end of their lives. The lives of some Canadians would have more value than the lives of others. Yet the life of each Canadian possesses the same intrinsic and inviolable worth until its natural end.
The fate of our fellow citizens who suffer physically and psychologically certainly cannot leave us indifferent; their vulnerability requires us to renew our efforts to support them in their afflictions. Those Canadian citizens who suffer from illnesses, whether they are young or elderly, do not need a law which makes it possible for others to kill them or to help them to commit suicide. Even those who ask to die do not always do so because of their suffering; for many, their request is actually a call for help out of their loneliness and their sense of being a burden to others.
The proper response to the cry of the suffering is an attentive companionship, full of human warmth and love. The suffering need the attention, the ears and the hearts of those closest to them and of caregiving personnel to endure their suffering with dignity. For their part, our families need the support of the state and society in order to assume their responsibilities with regard to their ailing members, the aging and the dying. They do not need a law which authorizes them to eliminate these family members from their lives.
Once again, the solution to such unfortunate scenarios is prevention. What Canada needs are concrete measures that will guarantee to all, at the proper time, care that respects their inherent dignity – a dignity that is not in any way diminished by illness, suffering, or the prospect of death. Such circumstances are an appeal to our sense of humanity and they are realities that we will all face one day or another.
We insist: it is necessary to eliminate the suffering and not the patient, the pain and not the dying person. A government which authorizes the murder of some of its citizens associates its country with a practice unworthy of a civilized nation. Governments that have legalized mercy killing have always been judged and condemned in the past. History has shown that such civilizations do not survive.
We cannot believe that our country would one day allow one citizen to kill another, even under the pretext of respect and compassion. The value and dignity of a human life does not depend on its physical or psychological "quality" and can never be measured by its psychological, social or economic demands upon the family and society. To affirm the opposite would amount to opening the door to eugenics.
Moreover, although we strongly oppose euthanasia and assisted suicide, we are not opposed to the justified refusal to continue disproportionate treatment. Such a discontinuation of treatment is often wrongfully presented as "passive" euthanasia, but it is in reality a morally legitimate rejection of overly aggressive medical treatment.
In closing, it pleases us to offer to you a copy of the most recent COLF publication, entitled "Euthanasia and Assisted Suicide: Urgent Questions!" We hope that this document will help Canadians reflect on these questions and to work out truly human solutions in response to the suffering of so many of the ill and dying. The words "love," "compassion" and "dignity" find their true meaning in such solutions.
† Most Rev. Ronald P. Fabbro, C.S.B.
Bishop of London
President of the Catholic Organization for Life and Family