OTTAWA – The Evangelical Fellowship of Canada urges Parliamentarians to carefully consider the inherent risks of decriminalizing assisted suicide and euthanasia, and to specifically include conscience protection for medical practitioners and institutions in Bill C-14.
“With the introduction of Bill C-14, Canada has crossed a significant threshold,” says Bruce Clemenger, President of The Evangelical Fellowship of Canada (EFC). “The decriminalization of euthanasia and assisted suicide constitutes a fundamental shift in how we as a society value and understand life and the duty of care we owe one another. Never before have we as a nation said that intentional killing is an appropriate response to suffering, or that we should take the life of the one who suffers rather than finding ways to alleviate their suffering.”
The access to assisted suicide and euthanasia provided by Bill C-14 is much more narrow than that proposed by the Joint Committee. The legislation would allow euthanasia and assisted suicide for persons who are 18 years or older, with a serious and incurable illness, disease or disability, in an advanced state of irreversible decline and for whom death is reasonably foreseeable.
Although the preamble of Bill C-14 indicates the government will develop non-legislative measures that respect the personal convictions of health care providers, the EFC is gravely concerned about the absence of conscience protection in the bill for medical practitioners and institutions.
"A significant omission is the lack of conscience protection in the bill,” says EFC’s Director of Public Policy, Julia Beazley. “It is essential to have strong conscience protection in the legislation for both medical practitioners and institutions who object, at a minimum, and this protection must be in place before this bill becomes law.”
The Court’s decision hinged on the ability to establish effective safeguards that would protect vulnerable people.
“We are very concerned because international experience demonstrates that safeguards cannot be completely effective in ensuring there are no wrongful deaths,” says Clemenger. “Decriminalizing assisted suicide and euthanasia places vulnerable people at risk.”
“We are deeply sympathetic to the suffering of individuals, and know these questions have deeply personal implications for many,” says Beazley. “But they also have profound implications for our society. Many people who are at the end of life are concerned about being a burden and may be afraid of what lies ahead. We are very concerned that access to physician-hastened death will come to feel like an obligation, in order not to be a burden on caregivers or an over-burdened health care system.”
“We welcome the comments from the Health Minister regarding the importance of palliative care, and the announcement of a financial commitment to home care and palliative care. It is lamentable, however, that Canada would go down the road of offering hastened death when the need for high quality palliative care across Canada has not yet been addressed,” says Beazley. “Palliative care is best suited to provide comfort and care to patients and their families who are suffering and near death.”
The Supreme Court of Canada opened the door to limited requests for assisted suicide in the Carter decision. However, Clemenger points out Parliament’s active role as legislator: “Parliament’s hands are not tied by the Court’s decision. It has options. While there is a short timeline, Parliament could choose to respond to the Carter decision by reaffirming its objective of promoting and protecting life and reintroducing a ban on euthanasia.”
The EFC argued against the legalization of assisted death, and for the strongest possible protection for vulnerable Canadians in any enabling legislation in its submissions to the Special Joint Committee on Physician-Assisted Dying, the External Panel on Legislative Options, and the Provincial-Territorial Expert Advisory Group on Physician-Assisted Dying. The EFC also argued for the sanctity of human life as an intervener in the Carter case before the Supreme Court of Canada and the BC Court of Appeal.
For additional information or an interview, please contact:
Rick Hiemstra, Director Media Relations
The Evangelical Fellowship of Canada