Quebec City, Canada, Jun 17, 2013 / 15:03 pm
A Quebec bill to allow lethal drug prescriptions for patients in pain would give doctors "the power to kill" and further lessen the value society places on the ill and dying, a Canadian pro-life group said.
"We must not give anyone – especially not our doctors – the power to kill. We must keep our hospitals safe and protect the weakest and the most vulnerable among us. It is a matter of public safety, of dignity, of true compassion and solidarity," the Catholic Organization for Life and Family said in a statement.
Social Services Minister Veronique Hivon introduced the Quebec government's medically assisted suicide bill on June 12.
The bill would allow a doctor to administer fatal drugs to a mentally sound patient who repeatedly gives written consent, CBC News reports. Two physicians would have to approve a suicide request.
Patients who qualify for euthanasia would not need to accept all available treatments. Rather, they would qualify if they experience "constant and unbearable physical or psychological pain which cannot be relieved in a manner the person deems tolerable."
Canada's federal government has said it will review the proposed bill's implications, as assisted suicide and euthanasia are illegal under the national criminal code.
"The laws that prohibit euthanasia and assisted suicide exist to protect all Canadians, including those who are potentially the most vulnerable, such as people who are sick or elderly, and people with disabilities," Canadian Justice Minister and Attorney General Rob Nicholson said June 12.
He noted that a large majority of the Canadian parliament voted against changing the national laws.
Hivon said she believed society was ready for the bill, which she described as allowing people at the end of life "to die with autonomy and dignity."
However, the Catholic Organization for Life and Family, which was co-founded by the Canadian Conference of Catholic Bishops and the Knights of Columbus, warned that justifications for the bill serve as camouflage for euthanasia.
"It is all very well to play with words, but the fact remains that killing is not caring," the group said. "Let us put an end to confusing the terminology."
The organization said palliative care is "the only human response" to suffering at the end of life. It urged Quebec to "preserve the mutual trust that is the foundation for genuine relationships between us."
The group also pointed to worrying precedents in other nations.
"In countries that have legalized euthanasia and assisted suicide – despite the safeguards and restrictions that have been put in place – we've seen increased depreciation for human life," the organization said. "In the name of budgetary efficiency, particularly vulnerable people have been encouraged to ask for euthanasia or to commit suicide."
"This danger is real and is likely to increase with the aging of our population, the rise in demand for health care services and the related costs."
The Catholic Organization for Life and Family noted that following the legalization of euthanasia in Belgium in 2002, cases in the country rose from 235 in 2003 to 1,133 in 2011. Strict adherence to promised standards is lacking, it said, while Belgian euthanasia lobbyists are now seeking legal euthanasia for children and those with dementia.
The organization reminded Christians of the biblical injunctions against murder, citing the biblical commandment "You shall not kill," and God's words in Genesis, "I will require a reckoning for human life."
At the same time, it explained, Christians should oppose "overly aggressive treatment and the maintenance of life at all costs."
Denying or ending "extraordinary treatments" are not euthanasia, the group said.