Wednesday, 29 September 2010


There are many voices in Canada today warning about the dangers of legalized euthanasia. A recent (Sept. 23) editorial in 'The Catholic Register' called for an end to the debate (being led in Quebec), presumably on the grounds of current church doctrine or teachings.

However, to demand that the debate must end based on unsubstantiated fears is a contradiction in a trust in God. Love is the absence of fear and God is love! The fact that Canadians enjoy a political forum whereby these important questions can be challenged, heard and presented, is perhaps of greater importance than the debate on euthanasia itself. Consider the results if this freedom were taken away. To be heard is the price we accept to enjoy this freedom. It is obvious that the authors of the above mentioned editorial and others would like to frame their beliefs in absolute legal terms. Nothing in life is that easy. Nothing in dying could be more difficult.

The same article does not provide the options available in the current Canadian laws on this sensitive issue. It hastely concludes that Euthanasia and assisted suicide are illegal in Canada. It is important to note, however, that “Legislation on euthanasia in Canada distinguishes between passive and active euthanasia, although the procedure remains officially illegal. In recent years, several public cases of active euthanasia have re-opened the debate on what Canadian society considers to be socially and morally acceptable in terms of euthanasia." -

Meanwhile Fr. Daniel C. Maguire, professor of ethics at Marquette University writes: “It is a good principle to company with the dying, to comfort then, and keep them with us as long as possible. Life is the good thing and the precondition of all good things. But the life that is good also bears the mark of the tragic. There are times when the ending of life is the best that life offers, when death which is ever the enemy, becomes our last best friend.

With regard to instituting stricter laws banning euthanasia Prof. Maguire also states: “declaring it illegal does not make it disappear. This is the same naiveté that thought that abuses of alcohol could be stopped by Prohibition and abortions could be stopped by banning them. Absolute prohibitions that run counter to a consensual base in the society do not work. The practice goes underground without the oversight of law.” This argument applies equally to other moral and ethical issues. This reasoning alone should prepare all compassionate individuals to focus more on raising financial aid for the building of hospices and training of palliative caregivers rather than spending time and effort in changing our laws. A law without heart is always divisive.

Link:  Finding the balance inend-of-life care: Palliative medicine and the Law.
             The Tablet, U.K.

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