We are not our own

Christians are called to stand firm on end-of-life issues

Late last year, a pair of Canadian senators, Larry Campbell and Nancy Ruth, introduced a bill in the Senate with the intention of re-opening the debate over physician-assisted suicide in Parliament. They hope to see a bill—strict safeguards in place—legalizing the act passed into law this spring.

If the bill passes, doctors will be able to help critically ill patients die, after observing requirements such as obtaining consent from two doctors, and observing a two-week waiting period.

More recently, the Supreme Court ruled February 6 that Canada’s current ban on doctor-assisted suicide is unconstitutional, giving Parliament one year to write legislation that would regulate the act.

The senators’ wingman is Conservative MP Steven Fletcher (Charleswood/St James/Assiniboia), who has been trying for years to get Parliament to debate his private members bills championing physician-assisted suicide.

A quadriplegic since hitting a moose on a Manitoba highway in 1996, Fletcher, a practicing Christian, has maintained that if he were ever to loose cognitive function, he would want the option of having a doctor help him to die.

Consider these words from a recent column on his website, titled “Dying with dignity: Keeper of my own soul.”

“Palliative care is critical, and Canada needs more of it, along with more hospice care and home care,” writes Fletcher. “Every effort should be made to provide the resources to make life the first choice.”

Yes, and amen! But then comes the “however.”

“However, there are situations where all the resources in the world will not alleviate the suffering some people face, nor will people have the death with dignity they want. We all hope life wins over death, but there are situations that are hopeless, and death wins in the end in every case. As a Christian myself, to suffer endlessly without hope and only feel pain or live with indignity makes heaven sound pretty good.”

Indeed heaven sounds “pretty good.” Suffering is terrible. We don’t want to suffer. We don’t want our families or friends to suffer.

But we don’t “hope” life wins over death. Life does win over death. Sometimes, many times, life is painful, for both ourselves and those around us. But that’s what the cross was all about, life winning over death. Even in the worst scenarios, there can be hope.

Simply put (if one can do so with such a complex issue) Fletcher, and the many people who supporting the bill currently in the Senate, have it wrong.

We are not the keeper of our own souls. That distinction belongs to God and God alone, He who knows when we sit and when we rise, the One who knew us before we were born, and will continue to know us once we leave this earth (Psalm 139).

We believe in the sanctity of life, even as we face the enormously difficult struggle of dying. We stand firm against the change Fletcher and his compatriots propose, and against the actions of the Supreme Court of Canada.

However, we can agree with the final line from Fletcher’s online column.

“This is a difficult topic,” he writes, “and as the debate grows, let’s approach it with hope, love, compassion, empathy and mercy.” May it be so.

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