Canadian Religious Leaders Speak Out Against ‘Morally Depraved’ Euthanasia Policy

AFP/File, Brendan SMIALOWSKI, DAVE CHAN/AFP via Getty Images

Canadian religious leaders are speaking out with growing concern as the clock ticks down on the activation of new policies that would allow mentally ill people to be euthanized with remarkable speed — just 90 days after two doctors approve the request for assisted suicide.

Canada legalized assisted suicide, which it prefers to call by the euphemism Medical Assistance in Dying (MAID), in 2016. Euthanasia was initially limited to patients over the age of 18 suffering from a terminal illness — but, as critics predicted, the standards have been relentlessly loosened with every passing year.

Canada is now one of only seven countries that allows medical professionals to administer lethal drugs to patients, rather than providing suicide formulations and requiring the patient to inject themselves, and it is the only country that allows nurse practitioners to kill their patients.

Last year, the requirement for MAID subjects to be suffering from terminal illness was lifted, and in early November, the Canadian Association of Medical Assistance in Dying Assessors and Providers rolled out a new training curriculum that advises doctors to aggressively offer euthanasia options, instead of waiting for patients to ask.

Removing the requirement that natural death must be “reasonably foreseeable” for euthanasia subjects opened the door to letting mentally ill people kill themselves, and that very policy will go into effect on March 17, 2023.

Critics of MAID policy are using these last few months to raise alarms about the explosion of suicides among Canadians. State-sanctioned suicides increased by 32 percent last year, putting MAID very nearly on par with Chinese coronavirus as a cause of death in Canada. With roughly 20 percent of Canadians reporting mental health issues, the number of deaths is poised to skyrocket next year.

“There’s going to be a rush for the doors,” predicted Mitchell Tremblay, a 40-year-old sufferer of chronic anxiety, depression, and alcoholism who told Canada’s CTV News in October he would probably request assisted suicide when it becomes available to him.

“You know what your life is worth to you. And mine is worthless,” Tremblay said.

Some apprehensive doctors told CTV they feared overburdened mental health programs would be strongly tempted to recommend MAID to clear up their caseloads. Some treatment programs have five-year waiting lists that might abruptly become quite a bit shorter in March 2023.

Other doctors were concerned about the ethical and legal ramifications of declaring mental health issues incurable or terminal, a far more subjective diagnosis than would be the case with physical ailments. 

Some of CTV’s mental health experts worried the arrival of state-sanctioned suicide for mental illness would prompt far more people to contemplate suicide — a line of reasoning that can lead into deeper depression, turning MAID for mental illness into a conceptual black hole that spreads “terminal” mental illness.

Canadian religious leaders quoted by Fox News on Tuesday questioned the morality of providing assisted suicide to people suffering from mental illness, arguing the practice devalues human life, makes it more difficult to battle serious depression, and will inevitably kill more poor Canadians because only the rich can afford private doctors who refuse to give up on them.

Vancouver Archbishop J. Michael Miller said last month that Canada’s assisted suicide laws are “morally depraved.”

“In six years, Canada has gone from totally banning euthanasia to one of the most permissive euthanasia regimes in the world — and even more access could be coming, including allowing ‘mature minors’ to request it,” Miller said.

“From our viewpoint, every life has equal value … but when a life should end is not something that should be left up to human beings,” said Montreal Rabbi Berel Bell.

“Our Creator knows how and when to end lives, and He does it every day. And if a person that is alive, whatever the reason why they need to be alive is something beyond human comprehension,” Bell said.

Bell was aware of the five-year waiting lists for mental health treatment described by the doctors who spoke to CTV, and predicted those with “money to go private” would be much less likely to join the much shorter waiting lists for legalized euthanasia.

“Instead of prioritizing support to help people to live meaningful lives, we’ve prioritized ways to make death more accessible. This is a heartbreaking message,” said Christian Legal Fellowship executive director Derek Ross.

“The legal expansion of eligibility for MAID will only serve to erode the respect for the essential dignity of the human person and the common good of society, which must be committed to protecting and safeguarding vulnerable individuals and those without a voice,” the Canadian Conference of Catholic Bishops told a parliamentary committee in May.

The committee wound up endorsing the expansion of euthanasia to the mentally ill, declaring itself satisfied that necessary safeguards were in place, but a report from dissenting members warned the new policy would “facilitate the deaths of Canadians who could have gotten better, robbing them of the opportunity they may have had to live a fulfilling life.”

Critics of the parliamentary committee said that despite its confident pronouncements, there are very few real “safeguards” around MAID for the mentally ill, save for the discretion of individual doctors.

“In a health-care system as fractured as our own, with many people struggling simply to survive, Canada’s expanding laws on euthanasia and assisted suicide will lead to many wrongful deaths in a terribly conceived social experiment,” predicted Ottawa psychiatrist Dr. Sephora Tang.


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