Opposition to Physician Assisted Suicide/MAID.
Like a typical town hall meeting, Renewal Cafés provide a glimpse into the mind of Christ within the evangelical wings of The Presbyterian Church in Canada. We send an invitation, accept RSVPs and open the door. The conversation then takes a life of its own.
The invitation to the July Café was a buffet of sorts. It served up a taste of what I determined were the most-notable news and happenings at General Assembly and invited readers to come and share. I had expected the top issue to be the ongoing uneasy tension over sexuality. GA 2023 was the first in person since dual definitions of marriage were adopted. How is liberty of conscience and action holding up? While that remained a concern, I was surprised to see that most of the conversation at the Café revolved around Medical Assistance in Dying– more accurately known as Physician Assisted Suicide. The revulsion against the planned, deliberate ending of life was impressive. There is a hunger for resources which uphold the sanctity of life. So we created a new page on the RF website: https://renewal-fellowship.ca/7649/ On it can be found church documents, a list of books and links to online resources.
One of the richest offerings is a discussion by a panel of pro-life believers: “MAID in Canada: A Multidisciplinary Conversation about End-of-Life Issues” reprinted from a Providence Theological Seminary publication.
Like our Café participants and others in evangelical Christian orthodoxy, I am blown away at the pace of change within this issue and the cavalier attitudes of many in secular cultures and the church. In the Providence discussion, hospital chaplain Paul Blair summed it up nicely: “Now it takes more time to file a marriage licence than it does to kill yourself. The law requires you to be more reflective about taking out a car loan than about ending your life. I have seen patients euthanized within less than 24 hours of asking for it — which is unprecedented in health care. There is no other health service you can access that rapidly.”
That speaks volumes.
The panelists touched on a vital issue: the reason for such wide support for PAS or Physician-Assisted Death. Poverty, lack of purpose and boredom are valid reasons, apparently. Psychiatrist Victor Frankl observed that those who have a will to live can survive anything. His experience in a concentration camp revealed the freedom to choose; no one can take away one’s freedom to choose to live, and to live with a purpose. Those with that mindset were more apt to survive. In Frankl’s case, his purpose was to thrive and make an indelible contribution by developing Logotherapy.
If I was in hospital and someone on the medical team asked if I’d considered MAID/PAS I would be horrified. Talk about the removal of hope. It would plant a seed of worry that might take over my thinking. What if someone with POA decided to take that step on my behalf? (Can they actually do that?) What if another practitioner suggested it, and another? Wear the frail and weary down while in a vulnerable state. Frightening. What people need in palliative care is peace, not fear, however irrational.
Pastorally, it’s a tough hill to climb. In my congregation and in the community there’s wide support. It’s seen as a thing of beauty. A peaceful death. But they’re missing something powerful. David Guretzki, who is executive vice-president and resident theologian of The Evangelical Fellowship of Canada, said: “Pastoral care does not ask the question, what is the solution to the presenting problem, but what is the word of God that this person needs to hear right now?” Also: “that chart where the federal government lists reasons why people chose MAID, they will see that of the 12 reasons given, about five of them are medically related and about seven of them are things that the church could actually contribute to.” Again, a tough hill when no one has the motivation to climb.
What are your thoughts on this issue? Share them and we will consider them for publication in a future edition of Renewal News.
Read our readers’ previous responses.