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Deacon-structing End of Life | Part 5

Deacon Pedro

Wednesday, July 9, 2014

Resident Priest blesses centenarian at Little Sisters home in Washington (CNS photo/Nancy Wiechec) (Sept. 30, 2009)
We’ve spent the last month looking at what it means to have euthanasia and/or assisted suicide legal in our country (see part 4, part 3, part 2 and part 1). Let me conclude by giving you some definitions to help you have this conversation with your family and friends.
  1. Passive Euthanasia: Some will claim that this is disconnecting someone from medical life-support equipment without which they cannot live. This is NOT euthanasia. Disconnecting someone from an artificial life support system is not euthanasia, passive or otherwise. It is called withholding extraordinary care. Disconnecting someone from a respirator without which their lungs (or heart) would not naturally function is not killing them. They are already dead without the machine. This is different than ordinary care, like a feeding tube. In the case of Terri Schiavo, the courts considered that she was receiving extraordinary care, even though she was breathing on her own and her heart was beating on its own. The "extraordinary care" in Terri Schiavo's case was a feeding tube. But feeding someone is not giving them extraordinary care – it’s feeding them. It’s no different than feeding a baby who can’t feed herself. Terri Schiavo didn’t die because they removed a medical life-support system without which she could not live. She died because she was starved to death. Tube or no tube, no one was even allowed to wet her lips with a towel. There’s no dignity, freedom or choice in that.
    NOTE: It is permissible to have someone on life support (extraordinary care) if there is hope of their recovery. It is permissible to withdraw extraordinary care if there is no hope of recovery. The term "passive euthanasia" is no longer used by those opposed to assisted dying.
  2. Self-Deliverance is suicide. It’s taking your own life.
  3. Assisted Suicide is Physician Assisted Suicide. A doctor prescribes drugs and then you take them yourself. He doesn’t assist you in taking them, he assists you by prescribing them. But you have to be able to take them yourself.
  4. Active Euthanasia: This is the only kind of Euthanasia there is (as opposed to passive euthanasia, which is not euthanasia). This is when the doctor (or someone else) injects the lethal drugs, because you can’t do it yourself. The current law in Canada calls this murder under the Criminal Code. Euthanasia can be voluntary (you asked the doctor to do it), or involuntary. Take note: 2400 or so cases of euthanasia and assisted suicide are reported each year in Holland. But in 1991, the Dutch Government conducted a study that found that there were actually closer to 12,000 assisted suicides that year. Of these, the patient did not request or consent to being killed in close to 6,000 cases. One of the doctors explained that it would have been “rude” to discuss the matter with the patients, as they all “knew that their conditions were incurable.” This is what could easily begin happening now in Quebec. (I wrote that in 2014. Medically Assisted Dying is now legal in Quebec and in all of Canada.)
  5. Medically Assisted Dying (MAD)/Medical Aid In Dying (MAID): Are terms that include both Physician Assisted Suicide and Euthanasia, as in both cases, the medical system is helping the person hasted their death.
The Euthanasia Prevention Coalition in Canada defines Euthanasia as: to intentionally cause death by action or omission of an action, for allegedly merciful reasons. And Assisted suicide is to knowingly provide the means for a person to kill him or herself.
I’m sorry this is so long but we need to let Canadians know the dangers of having a euthanasia mentality. Once we legalize something, it becomes part of our collective belief system. I truly believe that. So, legalizing it today, means that three generations from now, it will be commonly accepted that it’s ok to resort to killing in order to deal with difficult situations. That’s the slippery slope. And there are no safeguards that will work. Once we accept that killing is OK in order to relieve suffering, killing will be the norm. Once we accept that killing is OK under certain circumstances, we’ll soon begin to think that killing is OK under ANY circumstances. And next thing you know, killing will be acceptable to rid us of other inconveniences.
For more information you can contact the Euthanasia Prevention Coalition, the International Task Force on Euthanasia and Assisted Suicide or the Catholic Organization for Life and Family.
Here is my Deacon-structing End of Life Issues blog series:
The Law
Palliative Care
Life, Liberty and Security
You may also be interested in watching the Every Life Matters series hosted by Archbishop Smith of Edmonton.
I also produced a series of Catholic Focus episodes on end-of-life issues:
The Law
Human Life Matters
What Does the Church Say?
Ending the Pain
Quality of Life
And you should definitely watch our award-winning documentary, Turning the Tide. Produced in 2007, it is still very relevant today.

Every week, Deacon Pedro takes a particular topic apart, not so much to explore or explain the subject to its fullness, but rather to provide insights that will deepen our understanding of the subject. And don’t worry, at the end of the day he always puts the pieces back together. There are no limits to deaconstructing: Write to him and ask any questions about the faith or Church teaching: [email protected]

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