Canada’s lower house of parliament is set for the Third Reading and vote on the assisted dying bill today, after all nine opposition-tabled amendments were voted down yesterday. If approved by members of parliament, the bill will then be handed over to the senate, which has until 6 June to pass it. This deadline was given by the Supreme Court of Canada, which in February 2015 overturned a legal prohibition on physician-assisted dying from 1993.
The Dignitatis Humanae Institute would first of all like to express its solidarity with all those who suffer due to terminal or grave illness, as well as with all those who care for such persons, be they loved ones or healthcare professionals. The DHI strongly believes in the importance of palliative care for the elderly and the terminally ill, who are among the most vulnerable in our society – and the value of whose life must be affirmed unconditionally.
It is in this spirit of affirming the absolute value and dignity of every human life that we strongly oppose the assisted dying bill currently before the Canadian Parliament, and call on all Canadian parliamentarians in both houses to vote against it.
Commenting on Canada’s parliamentary vote and the Supreme Court decision, DHI Chairman Luca Volontè said:
“Assisted dying is completely contrary to true care for the sick, which affirms the value of each life. True care, including medical care, arises out of the firm belief that every human life, especially one whose illness cannot be cured, deserves to be treated with dignity, respect and love. Physician-assisted dying, on the other hand, is a radical denial of the value of life and is never compatible with caring for the sick. It compromises the wonderful care provided by so many professionals and non-professionals alike every day, and corrupts our sense of what caring means.”
The DHI wishes to further emphasise that physician-assisted suicide cannot be compared with legitimate medical treatment, which seeks to make life better and, as such, is life-affirming. Legitimate treatment never offers a direct choice between life and death.
Lord Alton of Liverpool, veteran campaigner on human rights, human life and human dignity matters, added:
“Assisted suicide reinforces a mentality that life is only worth living when it conforms to certain preconditions, such as being in good health. Assisted dying laws offer the choice between life and death when life no longer conforms to such a precondition. The message of those who very tragically choose death is that they see their lives as no longer worth living. This choice of death is a denial of the fact that all human life has an inalienable, infinite dignity.”
The DHI affirms that the solution to suffering does not lie in suggesting that the terminally ill may lead lives that are no longer worth living. The solution, rather, is to be with them until the very end of their lives, extending our care towards them. This care must, of course, go beyond physical medical treatment to also include emotional and spiritual support: the human person is more than just a physical body.
Through genuine love, supportive relationships, and legitimate medical care, we can help the terminally ill face their final struggles with courage and strength – and most importantly, live and die with authentic dignity. “Assisted dying” denies this triumph over suffering that all persons are capable of and can achieve with adequate support. Unlike deliberately ending people’s lives, true care believes – even when those who suffer have stopped believing – that they can overcome their suffering and find meaning in their lives. True care always affirms that every moment of every life is worth living.