The Cardinal Archbishop of Quebec, Gerald Lacroix, has made an impassioned plea to support those eligible for medical assistance in dying so that they reject the option of ending their lives prematurely.
Writing for the Huffington Post a week before the ban on medical assistance in dying will be formally lifted in Canada, the primate said: “The calls for assistance in dying usually disappear when suffering people are well accompanied. Doctors and palliative care personnel have so many times witnessed it to me.”
The cardinal encouraged everyone who knows a person who might fit the criteria for access to medical assistance in dying to “tell that person that he or she has a great worth in your eyes and will always be able to count on your presence”.
Bill C-14, the bill tabled in parliament by Justice Minister Jody Wilson-Raybould, would make assisted death available for clearly consenting adults "in an advanced stage of irreversible decline'' from a serious and incurable disease, illness or disability and for whom natural death is “reasonably foreseeable”.
But the cardinal said the relaxing of the law in Canada would, with time, lead to euthanasia becoming widespread. “In my humble opinion, it is a very sad ‘progress’”, he said.
“My personal journey in accompanying people in end of life situations confirms to me that it is dangerous to allow permission to provoke the death of another person, even with his or her consent…In this context, we are invited to prevent this suicidal mode by choosing to recognise the dignity of life,” he added.
The cardinal also called for medical professionals who are conscientious objectors to be protected by the law if they refuse to assist a patient choosing a medically assisted death.
In every province in Canada, apart from Quebec, assisted suicide is illegal and carries a sentence of up to 14 years in prison.
Some politicians in the UK have tried to introduce an assisted dying bill, but have so far been unsuccessful.