Responses sought to anti-euthanasia report

Published July 1, 1998

Helping terminally ill patients cope with their sickness and combat their pain more effectively is better than helping them to die.

That’s the conclusion of a report presented to synod.

Anglicans are being asked to respond to the document that comes out squarely against moves to legalize euthanasia.

“Both the request for assistance in committing suicide, and the provision of such assistance must be taken seriously as a failure of human community,” says the report, Care in Dying, written by a euthanasia task group of the Faith, Worship and Ministry Committee.

“The Christian response is always one of hope,” the report says. ” From this hope there arises the commitment to give all members of society, especially the most vulnerable, the assurance that they will be supported in all circumstances of their lives, that they will not have dehumanizing medical interventions forced upon them, and that they will not be abandoned in their suffering.”

The committee has been asked to gather responses and report back to the Council of General Synod by next March.

Good medical practice sustains the commitment to care even when it is no longer possible to cure, the report states. Such care may involve the removal of ineffective therapies, in favour of palliative measures.

“We do not support the idea that care can include an act or omission whose primary intention is to end a person’s life,” it continues. “Our underlying commitment is that health care delivery as a whole should reflect the desire of Canadians to be a community that sustains the dignity and worth of all its members.”

In presenting the motion to adopt the report, task-force member Bishop Victoria Matthews said the church’s aim was not to dictate policies to lawmakers but to provide a pastoral response to Anglicans faced with ethical decisions.

The issue is a controversial one, debated in recent years as Canadians witnessed terminally ill Sue Rodriguez’s legal battle to end her life with a doctor’s help and Robert Latimer’s murder charge over the killing of his disabled daughter.

The report acknowledges Canadians are deeply divided on the issue. There was some evidence of that at synod. Ann Cruickshank said she hoped the study would lead to further dialogue, suggesting the church might appear to be making decisions for the terminally ill.

On another ethical issue – cloning – the church has been asked to write the prime minister and the federal minister of health to encourage the government to prohibit cloning of whole human beings.

The government will be asked to try to ensure international trade agreements do not lead to cloning human beings.

The issue will also be raised at the Lambeth Conference.


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