On June 17, 2016, euthanasia/assisted suicide became legal in Canada.
By October 2016, 374 Canadians had already died by lethal injection.
Euthanasia may be defined as intentionally bringing about death by active intervention, or by neglect of reasonable care in order to end suffering.
Physician-assisted Suicide is when a person is prescribed lethal drugs with which to kill themselves, with the purpose of eliminating suffering.
There is real concern for the vulnerable and those struggling with mental health issues, especially those who feel isolated and alone.
Only 30% of Canadians have access to quality palliative (end of life) care.
Canadians should be given options that ensure the effective medical control of pain and, more importantly, loving accompaniment as they approach their final days.
He affirms that human persons should never make the decision to die, but that dying with dignity means being cared for until natural death occurs.
And Pope Francis, in his Inauguration homily said, “The vocation of being a ‘protector’ [. . .] means respecting each of God’s creatures and respecting the environment in which we live. It means protecting people, showing loving concern for each and every person, especially children, the elderly, those in need, who are often the last we think about. It means caring for one another in our families: husbands and wives first protect one another, and then, as parents, they care for their children, and children themselves, in time, protect their parents. [. . . ] Caring, protecting, demands goodness, it calls for a certain tenderness [. . .] We must not be afraid of goodness or even tenderness!”
As our call is to be missionary disciples, we are called as members of the Catholic Church to reach out to others – to be the hands, feet, eyes, ears and mouth of God in our world.
That includes looking after those who are dying.
The words of Sheila Cassidy, an English palliative care physician and author, describe perfectly how we see our challenge as a society and as individuals to be more involved in the care of those who suffer: “Those enduring great distress know that the cup cannot be taken away from them, but they value the presence of someone to share, however minimally, in their suffering – someone to watch with them during their agony. Jesus himself when wrestling with his fear in the Garden of Olives, begged his disciples to stay with him ‘Could you not watch one hour with me?’…”
Those of us in the Catholic Church are each called to answer this question when it comes to the dying; to help others die with true dignity, care and compassion.