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Euthanasia and Bill C-407

This bill aims to legalize both euthanasia and assisted suicide. Should Christians be concerned? Does it really matter?

A private members bill raises the issues of euthanasia and assisted suicide yet again.

The vulnerable should not have to worry that family members or physicians are going to kill them.

Do terms like "self-determination," "autonomy" and "personal choice" resonate with you? In our post-modern culture, these terms resonate with many Canadians. They are also terms that are often used to justify making euthanasia and assisted suicide legal.

If you are a regular Buckingham blog reader, you may remember that I have dealt with this issue a couple of times already in the last year. Last November, I commented on the Evelyn Martens case. In April, it was Terri Schiavo who inspired comment.

The latest is a private member's bill, Bill C-407, in the House of Commons. Bloc MP Francine Lalonde introduced this bill, which would legalize both euthanasia and assisted suicide, and as written, would allow any person, as long as they are assisted by a medical practitioner, to euthanize or assist the suicide of a person who is in chronic mental or physical pain. The bill also states that the individual in pain does not need to seek treatment before requesting to be assisted in suicide.

The big question is, why should Christians be concerned about this issue? Does it really matter?

Yes, it does matter and there are a number of reasons why Christians should be concerned about this bill. While Lalonde's bill is subtitled "death with dignity," the reality is that it targets society's most vulnerable people. Those who are disabled or terminally ill face challenges in living of which most of us are completely unaware. Most of us are not concerned that we are a burden on others. But those who are ill or disabled wrestle every day with such concerns. If euthanasia is legalized, many will feel that they should die in order to relieve others of the burden of their care.

The other day, a friend of mine shared her daughter's story with me. Her daughter was born with a genetic heart condition. The young woman is now 26 years old. She has lived a relatively normal life. She has a pacemaker, which currently needs to be replaced. But she is suffering from depression right now, largely because she feels that she should not have been born. Despite the fact that she has lived well with her condition, many babies that have this condition these days are aborted.

We who are able-bodied need to hear this message. Often, during "public debates" on euthanasia, those who have disabilities hear the message that they are not wanted in society. They hear that when they struggle with pain or have various handicaps to overcome, their lives are not really worth living. What a horrible message to send; what an important opportunity to bring truth into the public arena

What does the Bible have to say about this? First, the Bible tells us that we are all made in the image of God. We are all precious and priceless in His sight. Our value is not derived from what we can do, or what we can contribute. Rather, we are valuable because of who we are in God's eyes; we are dearly loved children.

The Bible also tells us to care for those who are most vulnerable in society. In Old Testament times, the most vulnerable were "widows and orphans." Nowadays, the elderly and those with disabilities are among the most vulnerable.

The elderly in our society are extremely vulnerable; and, as society is aging, they are a growing group. As a lawyer, I can tell you that it is not unusual to have someone bring their aging parent into a lawyer's office to draft or redraft a will that is in the benefit of the son or daughter sitting beside them, coaching them as to the contents of the will. Sadly, there are many unscrupulous people who cannot wait to get their hands on their parents' estate. These are the same people that are making medical decisions for their parents. Get the picture?

The other reality is that in Holland, where euthanasia is legal, it is often doctors who make the decision to end someone's life. Technically, doctors are supposed to wait for a request from a patient or their family. But many doctors have taken it upon themselves to decide when a person's life is no longer worth living. Currently, we look to doctors as healers. If they have the power to euthanize, will the patient/physician relationship change?

I am not saying that life should be artificially prolonged. And having been through end-of-life decisions for some of my family members, I know that it is not always easy to know what is right and wrong.

Some people believe that a so-called "living will" is the answer. In a living will, you can not only specify who should make medical decisions on your behalf if you can no longer make them, but you can state what treatment is and is not acceptable to you. Yet I have heard horror stories about living wills as well. One doctor told me that she kept her aunt's living will a secret because it said "no treatment" and she was not yet ready to let her aunt die. Another friend told me that her grandmother's living will said "no heroics" and the doctors refused to give any treatment at all—even hydration!

That said, living wills can be the right thing for some people in some situations. But the best approach is to talk to the person who would make your medical decisions if you become incapacitated. Make sure they know your values and what you would decide in given situations. You need to make sure that you trust the person who will be making these decisions on your behalf.

We will all have to walk in the valley of the shadow of death. Some of us will walk it many times with family members and even close friends. We need to be prepared ahead of time to know right from wrong as well as we can, and be able to prayerfully apply it.

And we need to be prepared to defend those who are vulnerable in our society. Some lines should not be the vulnerable should not have to worry that family members or physicians are going to kill them.crossed. The law should maintain a presumption in favour of life. And

We all have a right to the equal protection of the law whether we are able bodied or ill. We all have the right not to be killed.

While it is unlikely that Bill C-407 will pass, being a Private Members' Bill, now is the time to stand up for those who are vulnerable and make sure our government hears the message that everyone deserves the full protection of the law, whether they are terminally ill, disabled or able-bodied.

Janet Epp Buckingham is director of Law and Public Policy and general legal counsel for the Evangelical Fellowship of Canada in Ottawa.




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