The Quebec National Assembly on Thursday passed legislation creating a right to assisted suicide in some circumstances, drawing criticism from pro-life advocates who argue that life is sacred.
“We have no right to take our lives. Our lives are not ours. Our lives are a gift from God,” Mary Ellen Douglas, national organizer of Canada's Campaign Life Coalition, told CNA June 26.
“We have no right to take our own life or to take anyone else's life. It violates the gift of the Creator,” Douglas said, noting that bill opponents “have to continue to emphasize the sacredness of human life.”
Quebec's legislature passed Bill 52 by a vote of 94-22. It allows terminally ill Quebecois enduring “unbearable suffering” to request medical assistance to kill themselves, CBC News reports.
Liberal lawmaker Christine St-Pierre opposed the bill, saying “I don't believe it's right to give (anyone) the power to kill somebody.”
Véronique Hivon of the Parti Québécois, however – a lawmaker who helped draft the bill – said “for me, dying with dignity means dying with the least amount of suffering.”
Douglas said her group and other bill opponents “worked very hard” to prevent the bill’s passage. She warned that the bill “opens the door to active euthanasia” on those who are unconscious or unable to make a decision.
She also countered views that suffering justifies assisted suicide, adding that Catholics and other Christians believe that human suffering has merit when it is “united to the suffering of Christ.”
However, she noted the difficulty of explaining this in a “pagan” culture where “so many people have no concept of faith or of the hereafter.”
The Catholic bishops of Quebec had urged opposition to the bill. “Killing is not care,” Archbishop Pierre-André Fournier of Rimouski, president of the Assembly of Catholic Bishops of Quebec, said in a May 27 statement.
He said phrases like “death in dignity” and “medical assistance in dying” are misleading and mean deliberately causing death.
Like other bill opponents, the archbishop warned that the bill would allow doctors to euthanize patients.
“We understand, certainly, the anguish and suffering that all experience when a loved one dies in agony,” he said. “No one can remain indifferent to this distress.”
Archbishop Fournier stressed that good palliative care, not assisted suicide, is needed for those who are suffering.
Some opponents of the bill, including the Physicians' Alliance Against Euthanasia and Living with Dignity, have said that the bill violates Canada's Charter of Rights and contradicts federal law, which recognizes euthanasia as homicide.
Douglas said that proponents of assisted suicide and euthanasia now hold prominent positions in Canadian society. “It's going to be very difficult to fight back, but like anything else we have to keep teaching the truth,” she reflected.