End of Life: Two Reports, Two Contradictory Perspectives

Saturday, 20 November 2010
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End of life issues are of great concern to Canadians. Our ethical and social choices in the coming months and years will be crucial in this matter.  We are truly at a crossroads of civilization, threatened by a moral relativism that challenges the very foundations of our culture. 
Two reports published last week offer diametrically opposed visions of what could prove to be Canada’s future:  of a humane society or an inhuman one; a country marked by solidarity with the most vulnerable – that respects the dignity of citizens until natural death – or a country moved by false pity that eliminates those who believe life is not worth living anymore and patients who are too expensive to the state. 

Parliamentary Committee on Palliative and Compassionate Care

First, in a comprehensive report entitled “Not to be Forgotten – Care of Vulnerable Canadians”, the Parliamentary Committee on Palliative and Compassionate care offers a comprehensive look at palliative care and the end of life — including pain management and caregiver support – suicide  prevention, elder abuse and a disability perspective on health care and inclusive community living.  In this report one detects a real concern for the public good. 

The Catholic Organization for Life and Family (COLF) applauds the 55 MPs —representing all political parties in the Canadian Parliament — who, out of personal interest and through their own initiative, consulted a large sample of experts and organizations working in direct contact with the sick and dying from coast to coast.

COLF is delighted with the concrete and varied recommendations of this report, including the restoration of the Palliative Care Secretariat, the development and implementation of a National Palliative and End-of-Life Care Strategy, a National Suicide Prevention Strategy, and the establishment of an Elder Abuse Awareness and Prevention Office, (as well as the development and implementing of a National Elder Abuse Prevention Strategy). 

In many respects, this report incorporates the proposals put forward by COLF in its brief “A Matter of Solidarity” – presented to the Parliamentary Committee in October 2010 – convinced that palliative care is the privileged route to a humane and humanizing solution to the suffering of people at the end of life, people who can be deprived of their dignity by nothing. 

Royal Society of Canada

The second report made public last week is that of six experts commissioned by the Royal Society of Canada – five of the six already being known for their pro-euthanasia bias.  They produced a unanimous report entitled, “End-of-Life Decision Making” which is highly symptomatic of the ideology of death.  In this report personal autonomy and self-determination are extolled at the expense of the common good and it is argued that the “prophesied undesirable social consequences are not sufficient to negate the right to choose assisted suicide and voluntary euthanasia.” 

Without regard to the respect due to human life – and every human life – this document places great emphasis on the challenges and costs associated with our aging population.  Reading between the lines, it is clear that assisted death – a phrase coined to hide the deadly nature of euthanasia and assisted suicide – may be a solution to the problem.

As for health care professionals, they should have the legal right “to unilaterally withhold or withdraw potentially life-sustaining treatment.”  If, however, they are opposed to euthanasia and assisted suicide, their freedom of conscience would be violated by the proposed requirement that they refer individuals seeking one or more of these practices to another health care provider. 

In keeping with the tactics of the pro-euthanasia lobby, the authors of this report encourage the development of palliative care but while including, at the same time, liberal access to euthanasia and assisted suicide – two practices absolutely incompatible with the principles and goals of palliative care. 

Contradictory Statistics

They argue that a large majority of Canadians seem to favor a more permissivelegal framework for euthanasia and assisted suicide.  This assertion is contradicted by the results of a 2010 Environics poll which surveyed 2000 citizens in order to determine what the Canadian government should prioritize: palliative care or legalized euthanasia. 71% of those surveyed opted for improvement to palliative care; 19% for legalization of euthanasia; 5% for both; 5 % were undecided. Only 2% were in favor of assisted suicide; while 34% were in favor of, or more in favor than against, euthanasia. 

Additional statistics revealed this week in Quebec by the grass roots network Living With Dignity (LWD) show that the majority of well informed citizens reject euthanasia and assisted suicide.  According to an independent analysis conducted by LWD, of some 427 briefs and oral presentations made to the Special Commission on the Issue of Dying with    Dignity, more than 60% were opposed to euthanasia and assisted suicide, while 99% supported palliative care as the choice of Quebecers to dignify the end of life.  

What Society for Our Children?

COLF obviously gives more credibility to the report of the parliamentary committee, which conducted 24 hearings and round tables and consulted hundreds of Canadians, than to that of the Royal Society of Canada and its six experts.   

Since there is a new dialogue starting on these controversial issues, COLF encourages all people of good will to better inform themselves in order to overcome the confusion caused voluntarily by the proponents of euthanasia and assisted suicide. Whether you are a believer or an atheist, the fundamental reasons to say no to euthanasia and assisted suicide belong to the intuitive rational order and are designed to comply with Article 3 of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights:  “Everyone has the right to life, liberty and security of person.” 

At this time, some questions need to be asked:  What kind of society do we want to pass on to our children and grandchildren? Do we want to become a society anxious to help its most vulnerable citizens to take their own lives? Do we eventually want to kill depressed people, disabled newborns and children with cerebral palsy, as is now done in the Netherlands? 

In order to avoid such an appalling social failure, we must call on our elected representatives to absolutely resist the temptation to authorize the deliberate killing of our most vulnerable fellow citizens. A government which would fall into this trap would, in so doing, set its country on a path that is unworthy of a civilized nation.

The Catholic Organization for Life and Family is co-sponsored by the Conference of Catholic Bishops of Canada and the Supreme Council of the Knights of Columbus. COLF’s mission is to promote human life and dignity, and the essential role of the family.

For more information:

Michèle Boulva
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(613) 241-9461, ext. 141