Archbishop says Canada's assisted suicide law leads to fear of hospitals

IMAGE: CNS/Nancy Wiechec

By Thandiwe Konguavi

EDMONTON, Alberta (CNS) — The
specter of assisted suicide is leading aging people to “fear an
institution that should be the last thing they should ever fear — a
hospital,” said Edmonton Archbishop Richard Smith.

“But the strong feeling is,
‘If I can’t speak for myself, if I’m alone with no family members, are they
going to kill me?'” he said April 5 at a talk at Edmonton’s Corpus Christi

It is a question that
“flows naturally” from the January Supreme Court decision allowing
doctor-assisted suicide under certain conditions, the archbishop said. “This
decision turns inside out the relationship between patient and doctor, patient
and hospital; it undermines the trust that must be there.”

A series of talks across the
Edmonton Archdiocese has drawn large crowds and raised poignant questions on
euthanasia and physician-assisted suicide.

The archbishop said the other
“elephant in the room” is what the court decision has to say about
family life.

Earlier, in a session with a
group of seniors, Archbishop Smith heard how the elderly are feeling pressure
to not be a burden on their children and on society.

“That’s where the so-called
right-to-die slips into a duty-to-die,” he said.

In jurisdictions where
physician-assisted suicide has been legal for some time, people were asked why
they would seek it; they answered with avoidance of pain and suffering near the
bottom of the list of reasons, while not wanting to be a burden was at the top,
said Archbishop Smith.

“How does that even creep
into people’s heads?” he asked.

Chandra, a
volunteer at the Edmonton
Pregnancy Crisis Centre, said it was easy to see that people were
concerned about assisted suicide.

Chandra said she is also
concerned about young people: how families can be torn apart by the pressure
the legislation puts on people to “not be a burden” on their
children, or the temptation of young people envisioning coming into an early

“It may come to this — ‘I
don’t need my parent anymore. If he or she goes, then I’ll inherit,'”
Chandra said.

As she nears the last stage of
her own life, Chandra said she has been proactive in preparing her will and
making sure her family will defend not only her views, but her pro-life values.

“They’re clear on those
issues,” she said, although she does not wish her life to be prolonged

“If there’s no hope for me
physically, why not let God intervene whenever he wants to take me?” she

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Konguavi is a reporter for the Western Catholic
Reporter, newspaper of the Archdiocese of Edmonton.

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