English  ·  Français   ·   Italiano   ·   中文  

Love as We Know It

Love As We Know It Promo

In light of the most recent exhortation by Pope Francis, Amoris Laetitia, Salt and Light TV wanted to remind people of what has been at the heart of the Church’s concern this past couple years, and that is the family. Salt and Light TV has been a part of this journey of the family with the Church, as Pope Francis called the Synods on the family and participated in the World Meeting of Families in Philadelphia in September of 2015. To better prepare ourselves and our viewers for these events, we brought together stories of families from Canada and the United States to see how families live out their vocation to married life and raising a family today. Now, these stories are given new life in a 3 part series called Love as We Know It.

 

Episode One: Called to Holiness
Premiere time: Tuesday, June 7, 2016 at 8 p.m. ET
Repeats:
Wednesday, June 8, 2016 at 12:00 a.m. ET
Wednesday, June 8, 2016 at 12:30 p.m. ET
Wednesday, June 8, 2016 at 6:30 p.m. ET

 

Episode Two: Choosing Life
Premiere time: Tuesday, June 14, 2016 at 8 p.m. ET
Repeats:
Wednesday, June 15, 2016 at 12:00 a.m. ET
Wednesday, June 15, 2016 at 12:30 p.m. ET
Wednesday, June 15, 2016 at 6:30 p.m. ET

 

Episode Three: Fatherhood
Premiere time: Tuesday, June 21, 2016 at 8 p.m. ET
Repeats:
Wednesday, June 22, 2016 at 12:00 a.m. ET
Wednesday, June 22, 2016 at 12:30 p.m. ET
Wednesday, June 22, 2016 at 6:30 p.m. ET

Filming the World Meeting of Families videos, featured in this series, had a profound impact on many of us. Spending a day with a family, being invited into their homes and into their lives was a privilege. As a young Catholic still unmarried, I was especially grateful to have before me examples of couples who had made it through sometimes difficult situations, or challenging decisions. They emerged not only to have a better sense of who they were as a couple, but as a family. I can think of one family I had the opportunity of filming who was an encouragement to me: the Taylors.

They live in Erie, Pennsylvania; they have three daughters and one boy they adopted when he was just a couple years old. I won’t share with you here they’re whole story – I’ll simply encourage you to watch Love as We Know It! – but what struck me most. Despite the difficult decision to welcome a new child into their home and having to go through the tedious process required for an adoption, they did it together. Keith and Mary Jean talked about it over and over again with their daughters until it was made official. Everyone was a part of the journey. “To want to form a family is to resolve to be a part of God’s dream, to choose to dream with him, to want to build with him, to join him in this saga of building a world where no one will feel alone, unwanted or homeless” (Address of the Holy Father at the prayer vigil for the Festival of Families in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, September 26th, 2015). But this wasn’t a unique event in the life of their family. The Taylor home is open to everyone and have many times welcomed people who needed to rest, eat and play.

As the Holy Father’s post-synodal exhortation Amoris Laetitia made its appearance in a long list of papal documents on the family, he reminded us once more that the ‘joy of love’ is the fruit of a family “strengthened by generosity, commitment, fidelity and patience” (AL 4). It came as a conclusion to what the Church has experienced for the past couple years – after calling two Synods on the family and supporting the 8th World Meeting of Families – and as a springboard for a renewed energy in caring for families all over the world.  

Love As We Know It Pic4

Why should particular attention be given to families? Pope Francis gave one answer several months ago to thousands gathered along the Benjamin Franklin parkway at the Festival of Families in Philadelphia, following the worldwide congress on the family: “God did not want to come into the world other than through a family. God did not want to draw near to humanity other than through a home. God did not want any other name for himself than Emmanuel (cf. Mt 1:23). He is ‘God with us’.” In the heart of the family is an opportunity to love: ourselves, God and our neighbour. Love as We Know It is really a compilation of testimonies of love as they (the families) know it, with what they’ve been given so far.

Me Before You

blog_1465327119

That’s the title of a new film that just opened last weekend to mixed reviews. It stars Emilia Clarke and Sam Claflin in a romance with a bit of a twist. Clarke plays Louisa “Lou” Clark, who takes a job as the caregiver to Will Traynor (Claflin), a former daredevil who is now a quadriplegic who has decided to end his life. The mixed reviews are not because it’s a bad film, badly written, performed or directed. It’s because of the underlying “right-to-die” message.

I have not watched the film but am eager to watch it. I will not spoil the ending, but I think the title says it all. “Me before you” is exactly the opposite of what any loving relationship, especially marriage is all about. Marriage is all about “you before me”! And it’s not surprising that this is probably the message underlying a lot of these end-of-life issues.

We’ve spoken before about autonomy; “I can do whatever I want with my own body.” Well, you can’t really. I suppose I could cut off my arm if I wanted to. I would have a hard time finding a doctor to assist me in doing that. I would probably be sent to the mental hospital if I did. And no matter what I do to my own body, it affects all those who love me. In the case of medically assisted dying, it affects not just your loved ones, but your doctor and the whole medical system and the legal system too. No act is really ever a completely autonomous act because we are not completely autonomous. We are relational.

Mark Pickup said it very well during our conversation for Catholic Focus a few weeks ago. People who want to end their life because the pain is unbearable or because their life is not what it used to be or they have no quality of life, or because they don’t want to be a burden to others need to stop putting ‘me’ before ‘you.’ In the film Will tells Lou that he has decided that he will live 6 more months and then he will seek assisted dying. He already decided that before he met her. Lou responds, “but that was before me.” Once we find meaning, love and relationship; once we know we’re not alone, usually we want to live.

That’s the message of tonight’s last interview in the Catholic Focus mini-series on end-of-life issues. I spoke with Chuck and Jeri Marple who are the parents of Mary, a young woman with Cerebral Palsy. Some would say that Mary’s life has no quality and it’s not worth living. Others would disagree.

I hope you can watch Catholic Focus: End of life Issues – Quality of Life, tonight at 7:05pm ET (repeats at 9:05pm MT).

I encourage you to go watch Me Before You. Watch it and talk about it. It’s a great opportunity to speak out about these issues. It’s very serendipitous that the film came out exactly at the time when Canada has de-criminalized medically assisted dying. The Canadian Senate is right now reviewing Bill C-14, which will likely be sent back to the House of Commons for some amending. I don’t think MAD should be legal, but I do think that a law with as many safeguards as possible is better than no law. We’ve had no abortion law in Canada now since 1988. Let’s not do the same with Euthanasia and Assisted Suicide.

More importantly, I encourage you to learn as much as you can about these issues. We need to be informed. We need to know the law and we need to know what the Church teaches.

That is why we at S+L have been putting together many programs and providing many resources to help you stay on top of these issues. I’ve tried to compile many of the ones that I’ve worked on in this blog post. Just scroll a little bit and you’ll see how much there is to read and watch.

Perhaps most important of all, I encourage you to be Catholic. This was Archbishop Smith’s advice at the end of the Every Life Matters series. According to the Census, 44% of Canadians report that they are Catholic. If 44% of Canadians were truly Catholic, living their Catholic Faith with knowledge and passion, we would not have these issues in Canada.

Be Catholic. Defend and protect life from conception to natural death.

Learn more:

Turning the Tide:(a documentary on dignity, compassion and euthanasia)

Catholic Focus interviews:
End Of Life Issues: The Law
End Of Life Issues: Human Life Matters (with Mark Pickup)
End of Life Issues: What Does the Church Say? (with Archbishop Richard Smith)
End of Life Issues Ending the Pain
End of Life Issues: Quality of Life

Perspectives: The Weekly Edition:
End of Life: Jeremy Tyrell

Every Life Matters Series

From our Blog:
Deacon-structing End of Life: Part 1
Part 2
Part 3
Part 4
Part 5

Deacon-structing End of Life Issues:
The Law
Palliative Care
Life, Liberty and Security

From Fr. Rosica
There can be no true peace unless life is defended and promoted – A reflection on Euthanasia


Photo Credit: Emilia Clarke and Sam Claflin in the 2016 MGM film Me Before You. Image courtesy of mebeforeyoumovie.com/

Catholic Focus – End-of-Life Issues: Ending the Pain

end-of-life-ending-the-pain-960x540

Lisa Daniels lives with extreme, debilitating, chronic pain. She suffers greatly. Her suffering is irremediable. There is no cure. Many people who support the idea of medically assisted dying do so on the basis that some people, like Lisa, live with unbearable, intolerable pain. Can all pain be managed? How are we to respond to the question of pain? Recently, while in Edmonton, I had a chance to speak with Lisa and her doctor, Robert Hauptman.

Watch our conversation below:

Learn more about Lisa’s story and the #CommitLife Campaign by watching this video.

Human Life Matters on Catholic Focus

Mark Pickup

I first heard of Mark Pickup, 10 years ago when we were working on Turning the Tide. At the time, it was not possible to interview Mark for the documentary. He would have been a great addition to the film.

Mark was diagnosed with Multiple Sclerosis at age 30. He is one of Canada’s most out-spoken disability-rights advocates against euthanasia and assisted suicide.

But Mark was not always this way. In his personal blog, Human Life Matters he writes about how angry he was when he lost his health:

“Fear overcame me about what lay in store for me. I knew multiple sclerosis is a serious disease that often has a catastrophic impact of the lives of people it strikes. I knew people with MS: often their lives were torn apart as their marriages crumbled, careers shattered, and they were abandoned to a living hell.

“Multiple sclerosis devastated my life. It stripped away my health, layer by layer, like pealing an onion, and eventually left me triplegic and in an electric wheelchair.

“Looking back over more than twenty years of increasingly profound and crippling disability I must say that I have become one of those people I wrote about who lives with a sick and twisted body. Yes, there were times when my heart broke – along with the hearts of those loved me. There were times throughout the years when it was me (not someone else) who was on the verge of despair. Protracted suffering seemed to isolate me in sorrow – just as my wife’s sorrow seemed to isolate her. At other times we lived two solitudes rooted in the same overwhelming and inexpressible sorrow.”

He is a perfect candidate for Canada’s new Medically Assisted Dying Bill.

That is why when we were in Edmonton recently for the Every Life Matters series with Archbishop Richard Smith and I knew that Mark was one of the speakers, I asked if we could meet to speak further. He agreed and we spoke about his disease, about suffering, quality of life, disabilities, conscience rights and much more.

My conversation with Mark Pickup will air on Catholic Focus tomorrow, Wednesday, May 18 after Perspectives Daily, at 7:05pm ET (5:05pm MT). It repeats at 11:05pm (8:05pm MT).

I hope you can join us for this special Catholic Focus on end of life issues.

This mini series on end-of-life issues began last week with a conversation with lawyer Kate Faught, who explains how our legal landscape is changing, and will continue for the next three Wednesdays:

May 25: What Does The Church Say? with Archbishop Richard Smith of Edmonton.

June 1: Ending the Pain, with Lisa Daniels who suffers debilitating, chronic pain, and her doctor, Robert Hauptman.

June 8: Quality of Life, with Jeri and Chuck Marple, parents of Mary who has cerebral palsy.

Every Life Matters

march4life_610x343_revised
Recently, while in Edmonton during the Every Life Matters series, I overheard someone say that the Catholic Church had two preferential options. I had heard of the preferential option for the poor but had never heard of the preferential option for life. Life is the one inalienable right upon which all the other inalienable rights of individuals are founded and from which they develop. There can be no liberty or security unless life is defended and promoted. Mother Teresa told the United Nations gathering in 1985:

“If we are sincere in our hearts that we really want peace, today, let us make that strong resolution that in our countries, in our cities, we will not allow a single child to feel unwanted, to feel unloved, to throw away a society.”

Indeed, there can be no peace, unless all human life is defended and protected from conception to natural death.

This week is a special week when we celebrate and recognize the value of every human life. Of course, this is something that we should do all the time, but in a special way, as the temperature is warming and plants are budding – there is new life everywhere – it’s good to make a point of reminding ourselves and those around us that we are a people of life.

I hope that you can join us for the following programs airing this week on S+L TV:

Wednesday May 11

Catholic Focus: End of Life Issues – The Law
7:05PM ET / 4PM PT (repeat at 11PM ET / 8PM PT)
Our legal landscape is changing in Canada with the legalization of medically assisted dying. What does the criminal code say? What is being changed and how did we get here? These questions and more are addressed by Kate Faught, a lawyer in Edmonton.

Turning the Tide
9PM ET /6PM PT (repeats at 10PM PT).
This is our award-winning documentary that looks at dignity, compassion and euthanasia.

Through the lives of 5 individuals, this production explores how the legalisation of Euthanasia would affect society, in particular those who are most vulnerable: the disabled, the elderly and those who are chronically ill. Made in association with the Euthanasia Prevention Coalition, this powerful documentary looks at the concepts of compassion, dignity, quality of life, personal autonomy and choice, and explores how the law works in shaping a society. The documentary includes Canadian disability rights activist, Catherine Frazee and Palliative Care Nurse Consultant, Jean Echlin, as well as Wesley Smith, attorney for the International Task Force Against Euthanasia and Assisted Suicide and Terri Schiavo’s brother, Bobby Schindler.

A People of Life
9:30PM ET (repeats at 10:30PM PT)
Made in collaboration with the Knights of Columbus, A People of Life explores what it means to be Pro-Life, looks at the Pro-Life issues: abortion, euthanasia and stem-cell research in both the U.S. and Canada, and focuses on the work done by the Knights of Columbus in these areas. A People of Life includes interviews with Supreme Knight, Carl Anderson; March for Life Founder, Nellie Gray; Project Rachel Founder, Vicki Thorn, Democrat Member of Congress, Bart Stupack and President of Life-Athletes, Chris Godfrey, among others.

Thurs. May 12 (March For Life Day)

Love is a Choice
9:30AM ET
The official documentary of the life of St. Gianna Beretta Molla with excerpts of the Canonization ceremony on May 16, 2004. Includes interviews with Pietro Molla and their children.

Catholic Focus: End of Life Issues – The Law – 12 noon ET / 9AM PT

Turning the Tide – 12:30PM ET / 9:30AM PT

Chiara Luce Badano: A Beautiful Plan
1PM ET / 10AM PT
Chiara Badano, called Chiara “Luce” (which means “Light”), was an Italian teenager who belonged to the Focolare Movement and died prematurely at eighteen after succumbing to osteosarcoma, an aggressive and painful form of bone cancer. She was beatified in September 2010 in the Sanctuary of “Our Lady of Divine Love” in Rome.

A People of Life – 2PM ET / 11AM PT

Every Life Matters EP 1 What’s it All About?
9PM ET / 7PM MT

I also encourage you to watch the Every Life Matters series. All episodes are online, but also re-airing on S+L TV. Also watch my series of new Catholic Focus episodes on end-of-life issues Wednesdays throughout the month of May:

Every Life Matters: Ep 2 What’s Wrong with Assisted Suicide and Euthanasia?
Sat May 14
9PM ET / 7PM MT

Catholic Focus: End of Life Issues – Human Life Matters
Premier Air Date: May 18, 2016
7:05PM / 8:05PM PT
Canada’s laws concerning assisted suicide and euthanasia are changing. What does this mean and why should we be concerned? What is wrong with assisted suicide and euthanasia? Disability Advocate, Mark Pickup answers these and questions on dignity, compassion, quality of life and other end of life issues.

Every Life Matters: Ep 3 It’s My Body, My Choice
Thursday May 19
9PM ET / 7PM MT

Every Life Matters: Ep 4 I Don’t Want to Suffer
Sat May 21
9PM ET / 7PM MT

Catholic Focus: End of Life Issues – What Does the Church Say?
Premier Air Date: May 25, 2016
7:05PM / 8:05PM PT
Issues of death, dying and suffering touch all of us and the Church has been journeying with people through these times for millennia. As Euthanasia and Assisted Suicide become legal in Canada, Archbishop Richard Smith of Edmonton explains what the Church teaches and what’s wrong with these practices.

Every Life Matters: Ep 5 What  Must We Do?
Thursday May 26
9PM ET / 7PM MT

Catholic Focus: End of Life Issues – Ending the Pain
Premier Air Date: June 1, 2016
7:05PM / 8:05PM PT
Many people who support the idea of medically assisted dying do so on the basis that some people live with unbearable, intolerable pain. Can all pain be managed? How are we to respond to the question of pain? Lisa Daniels lives with chronic pain. Together with her doctor, Robert Hauptman, they address these and other questions.

Catholic Focus: End of Life Issues – Quality of Life
Premier Air Date: June 8, 2016
7:05PM / 8:05PM PT
People with disabilities are most concerned about the legalization of euthanasia and assisted suicide. Charles and Jeri Marple are the parents of a child with Cerebral Palsy and they address these concerns and explore questions about value, dignity and quality of life.

Deacon-structing end of life issues: Life, liberty and security

Parliament

As we explore the issues of end of life and medically assisted dying, we can’t ignore the question of freedom and human rights since one of the basic arguments for euthanasia and assisted suicide is that of autonomy: “it’s my body; my choice.”

In Canada we have the Charter of Rights and Freedoms. If you haven’t read it, you should. This is the law in Canada. I am not an expert, nor have a really studied the Charter, but sometimes I think that this is not the best thing to have since it’s vague and open to many interpretations.

As an example, the Supreme Court of British Columbia determined in 1993 that the request made by Sue Rodriguez for assisted death violated Sections 7 (the right to “life, liberty, and security of the person), 12 (protection against “cruel and unusual punishment”), and 15(1) (equality) of the Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedoms. Two decades later, using the same Charter, this ruling in Rodriguez was overturned in the 2015 decision in Carter v Canada, by the Supreme Court of Canada.

How is it that 22 years ago Supreme Court judges can look at the Charter and determine that legalized assisted dying is unconstitutional and today, the Supreme Court of Canada can look at the same Charter and determine that to deny assisted dying in fact, violates the Charter? I think that if it was clear, no matter the individual values of the judges making the ruling, the decisions would always be the same.

Section 7 of the Charter says that, “Everyone has the right to life, liberty and security of the person and the right not to be deprived thereof except in accordance with the principles of fundamental justice” but nowhere does it define what those terms, life, liberty and security, mean. Would someone define “life” as a state wherein the person is useful and competent? If your life does not have liberty or security, can it be considered a life? Is a “life” defined by merely as someone who is alive? Who decides? Are these decisions based on the whim of the fleeting societal values of any particular time?

We also get into trouble because sometimes the secular world and Christians use the same words, but we have completely different meanings.

Take the word “Liberty”. What does it mean? Does it mean “freedom”? Archbishop Richard Smith of Edmonton, during the Every Life Matters series made a very clear distinction between the words, “freedom” and “license”.

Archbishop Smith said, “License is refusal of all limit and constraint in order to do what I want. Freedom is liberty within limit to do what I must. This “ought” flows from my pledge of fidelity to the love of God. The limit within which we exercise freedom is truth: the truth of our creaturely dependence upon God, the truth of our relationship of interdependence with others, and the truth that I am not my own.”

And so, what most people refer to when they speak of freedom or liberty is not freedom at all; it’s license. “I should be able to do whatever I want” is not freedom; it’s chaos. (For more on freedom read Pope Francis’ homily from this morning’s Jubilee for young people.)

But more importantly, if all Canadians are endowed with the inherent rights of life, liberty and security – and those rights are equal – what happens when one of those rights comes up against the other? What happens when your right to liberty or security goes up against your right to life? What happens when my right to life goes up against your right to liberty?

This is where a bit of logic can be of assistance. These three inherent rights are equal, but they are hierarchical in fundament. That means that one is more fundamental than the other two.

Take a house, for example. In order to be a house, a house needs a foundation, it needs walls and it needs a roof. All are equally important. Without a foundation, without a roof, or without walls, the building ceases to be a house. They are equal. But, can you have walls without a foundation? Can you have a roof without walls? Therefore even though all three are equally important, the foundation is more fundamental than the walls and the roof. The walls are also more fundamental than the roof. The roof is the least fundamental of the three because it needs the other two in order to exist.

It’s the same with life, liberty and security: You can’t have security without life and liberty and you can’t have liberty without life. Therefore life is the more fundamental of these three inherent rights. Liberty is more fundamental than security. This means that when security or liberties go up against life, life should always win. If my right to security goes up against my right to liberty, my right to liberty should always win, because it is more fundamental.

Our laws may say this thing or that thing, but that doesn’t make it necessarily right. We have to be clear as to what we believe and have to be able to explain it to others.

Now there may be lawyers among you reading this and there may be some among you who have indeed studied the Charter. I welcome your comments on my little musing for today.

Again, I invite you to watch the Every Life Matters series, presented by Archbishop Richard Smith of the Archdiocese of Edmonton. You can watch all the webcasts at www.caedm.ca. The TV broadcasts began last night, April 23 on Salt + Light TV. Here’s the broadcast schedule if you prefer to watch them on TV.
And again, I invite you to watch my award-winning documentary, Turning the Tide, which deals with Euthanasia and Assisted Suicide in Canada and with its study guide, is perfect for classroom or a parish study.


resized

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: pedro@saltandlighttv.org

Deacon-structing end of life issues: Palliative Care

20140910cnsbr6257
Last week I wrote about the law as it stands in Canada and what the changes to allow for physician assisted dying may be. Since then, the Government has tabled a bill which is now going through the proper channels on its way to approval before June 7th, 2016.

You can read the proposed bill: Bill C-14 – First Reading, April 14, 2016

Also – read the statement from Toronto’s Cardinal Collins.

You can also watch all the Every Life Matters webcasts that we just finished doing in Edmonton with Archbishop Richard Smith. The series featured several wonderful speakers, including a lawyer, doctors, parents and people living with disabilities.

When we were working on Turning the Tide, almost 10 years ago now, one of the learning points for me was about palliative care. I kept hearing that what we needed was not assisted dying, but better palliative care. In fact, Turning the Tide features one of Canada’s palliative care pioneers, Jean Echlin.

But most people probably don’t know what palliative care is and many, who have heard about palliative care, are afraid of it because they think it’s for people who are dying.

One of the speakers for the Every Life Matters series was was Dr. Anna Voeuk. She is a palliative care physician. At the second session she said that we shouldn’t be asking “what’s wrong with euthanasia and assisted suicide?” as much as we should be asking, “what’s right about palliative care?” That’s what I’d like to do today.

First, some terminology and a reminder of the definitions:

Euthanasia is the intentional termination of a life of a person, by another person, in order to relieve suffering (with or without that person’s consent).

Voluntary euthanasia is euthanasia performed in accordance with the wishes of a competent individual, whether those wishes have been made known personally or through a valid, written advance directive.

Physician-assisted suicide (PAS) is intentionally killing oneself with the assistance of a medical practitioner or a person acting under the direction of a medical practitioner who provides the knowledge, means or both.

Physician Assisted Dying/Death (PAD) encompasses physician-assisted suicide and voluntary euthanasia that is performed by a medical practitioner or a person acting under the direction of a medical practitioner.

Physician Assisted Dying is also referred to as “Medical Aid in Dying” (MAD) or Medical Assistance in Dying (“MAID”).

Dr. Voeuk prefers to call it Physician Hastened Death (PHD) because the intention of these acts is to bring about death sooner than it would occur through natural causes. This is done by the administration of a lethal dose of a drug.

None of these practices, PAD, MAD, MAID or PHD are part of Palliative Care as palliative care allows for people to be comfortable as they approach death naturally.

Last week I mentioned the Carter v. Canada case. In Section I (1) of the ruling it says that a person facing the prospect of a life of unbearable, irremediable suffering “has two options: she can take her own life prematurely, often by violent or dangerous means, or she can suffer until she dies from natural causes. The choice is cruel.”

Dr. Voeuk says that there are other options. She would say and the Church would agree (and so would a Parliamentary Committee on Palliative Care) that what we need is not medically assisted dying. What we need is better care. We need better mental health resources. We need better spiritual care. We need better social supports and we need better palliative care.

According to Wikipedia, palliative care is a multidisciplinary approach to specialized medical care for people with serious illnesses. It focuses on providing patients with relief from the symptoms, pain, physical stress, and mental stress of a serious illness—whatever the diagnosis.

Better yet, according to the World Health Organization, Palliative Care is:

An approach that improves the quality of life of patients and their families facing the problem associated with life-threatening illness, through the prevention and relief of suffering by means of early identification and impeccable assessment and treatment of pain and other problems, physical, psychosocial and spiritual.

Palliative Care affirms life and regards dying as a normal process. It intends neither to hasten nor postpone death.

Palliative care is not:
• Hastening or prolonging death
• Focused solely on end-of-life care
• Failure/abandonment (“nothing more we can do”)

Some of you may have heard of Dame Cicely Saunders. She is known as the mother of the Modern Hospice Movement. Her approach was revolutionary because she had a total pain approach; it was holistic and team-centered.

The Canadian Society of Palliative Care Physicians has the following key messages:
1. Patients with life limiting conditions, and their families, have a right to high quality palliative care that includes impeccable pain and symptom management.
2. Palliative care does not include physician hastened death
3. Palliative care does not hasten or prolong death
4. Palliative care strives to reduce suffering, not end life

(NOTE: The word “palliative” in medicine refers to relieving pain or alleviating a problem without dealing with the underlying cause. Good end-of-life care is palliative because it doesn’t seek to cure the person.)

At the end of life people may have to deal with many symptoms, conditions or concerns. These may be physical, such as pain, nausea/vomiting, diarrhea/constipation, fatigue, drowsiness, lack of appetite, breathlessness or insomnia.

They could be psychosocial such as pain, anxiety, depression, finances, family issues, fear becoming a “burden” or loss of dignity, to name a few.

They could also be existential. Some of these could be pain (distress/suffering), fear of loss of control, questions about meaning of life/death, spiritual/religious questions.

Good palliative care seeks to address all of these. That’s why you don’t just need one palliative care doctor, but rather all your doctors should have a palliative approach. This includes all of your professional healthcare team: Physicians, Nurses, Social Worker, Chaplain/Pastoral Care, Physiotherapist, Occupational Therapist, Clinical Psychologist, Psychiatrist, Clinical Pharmacist, Respiratory Therapist, Dietician/Nutritionist, Music and, Art Therapist, Recreational Therapist, chaplains and volunteers. I would say that this also includes your family members, friends and loved ones.

At the end of the last Every Life Matters sessions, Disability Rights Advocate, Mark Pickup said that if he ever gets to the point where he is so low that he is asking for death he needs his support group, his family, his community, to tell him that he is loved and valued; that his life still has purpose and meaning. He needs them to hold him and care for him and to validate him as a person. He does not need them to kill him. What he means is that he needs good palliative care.

I would add that this approach to dealing with pain is not to be reserved only to end-of-life care. We need to support all people who suffer pain whether it is physical, emotional, psychological or social.

Another of our Every Life Matters speakers was pain management specialist, Dr. Robert Hauptman. Dr. Hauptman said that in this day and age, most pain can be managed. In fact he added that in 30 years of practice, he has never seen anyone die in intolerable pain. If your pain cannot be managed what you need is another doctor, not assisted death.

One common confusion that people have with palliative care revolves around issues of withholding or withdrawal of life-prolonging treatment. Let me be clear: Palliative Care is not considered physician hastened death. And so, refusing treatment and allowing life to take its course is not assisted dying or euthanasia. Good palliative care would not simply leave that patient to be after they’ve refused treatment. That patient would still be cared for in a palliative way; which may not involve life-prolonging treatment.

Regarding someone who is on life-support; a respirator or ventilator without which that person cannot survive (normally referred to as extra-ordinary care): In essence that person is already dead. Removing the life-prolonging treatment does not kill them, because without the machine, they are not alive. [This is different than removing a feeding tube, for example from someone who is breathing on his/her own and whose heart is beating on its own. Removing this “basic care” would be starving that patient to death. That is euthanasia.]

Another question we had was regarding the refusal of resuscitation or CPR. Again, if someone needs resuscitating or CPR, they are already dead. Not “treating” them is not euthanasia.

The Catholic Church supports the palliative approach which does not hasten death through artificial means; rather, it allows for life to take its natural course and for death to occur naturally. Of course, we always seek to make the person comfortable and at peace.

When people ask for death and they say things like, “I want to end it all” what they mean is that they want the suffering and the pain to end. That is why we need to try to get at the root of the suffering and help them manage their pain. Good palliative care does this.

But good palliative care is not available everywhere in Canada. In fact, the Parliamentary Report mentioned above says that only about 30% of Canadians have access to good palliative care. Shouldn’t we be talking about improving palliative care instead of legalizing physician assisted dying?

“You matter because you are you, and you matter to the end of your life. We will do all we can not only to help you die peacefully, but to live until you die.”
— Dame Cicely Saunders

As we move towards this new Canada, I invite you to watch the Every Life Matters series, presented by Archbishop Richard Smith of the Archdiocese of Edmonton. You can watch all the webcasts at www.caedm.ca and also, starting on April 23 on Salt + Light TV. You may also be interested in watching a series of interviews I did for Catholic Focus on End–of-Life Issues, which will air in May. More details on all these broadcasts as we approach those dates.

And, I can’t leave without inviting you to watch our award-winning documentary, Turning the Tide, which deals with Euthanasia and Assisted Suicide in Canada and with its study guide, is perfect for classroom or a parish study.


Photo credit: CNS photo/Rick Musacchio, Tennessee Register.


PedroHeadShot

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:pedro@saltandlighttv.org

Deacon-structing end-of-life issues: The Law

PedroCourt

You may know that I am currently in Edmonton taking part in the Every Life Matters series. This is an initiative by Archbishop Richard Smith to begin conversations on an important topic that is bound to touch all of us at some point in time.

What precipitated the series is the fact that our legal landscape in Canada is changing. As of June 7, 2016, it will no longer be a criminal offence for medical practitioners to assist people in dying if three conditions are met – well, at least if three conditions are met – the law is not yet written and there may be other conditions. There may be other allowances.

As we approach the June 6 deadline, I hope to unpack some topics related to these issues. If you are interested in learning more, please read my blog series titled Deacon-structing End of Life (Part 1, Part 2, Part 3, Part 4 and Part 5)

When I wrote that series I did not look specifically at the legal questions. I’d like to do that today, but first, a few definitions:

Euthanasia is the intentional termination of a life of a person, by another person, in order to relieve suffering (with or without that person’s consent).

Voluntary euthanasia is euthanasia performed in accordance with the wishes of a competent individual, whether those wishes have been made known personally OR through a valid, written advance directive.

Assisted suicide is intentionally killing oneself with the assistance of another person who provides the knowledge, means or both.

Physician-assisted suicide is intentionally killing oneself with the assistance of a medical practitioner OR a person acting under the direction of a medical practitioner who provides the knowledge, means or both.

Physician-assisted death encompasses physician-assisted suicide and voluntary euthanasia that is performed by a medical practitioner OR a person acting under the direction of a medical practitioner.

And now, the Law: There are two sections in the Criminal Code that are being changed. They are:

Criminal Code s. 241(b) – everyone who aids or abets a person to commit suicide, whether suicide ensues or not, is guilty of an indictable offense and liable to imprisonment for a term not exceeding 14 years.

Criminal Code s. 14 – no person may consent to death being inflicted on them, and such consent does not affect the criminal responsibility of any person by whom death may be inflicted on the person by whom consent is given.

The way I understand it, is that in Canada, the Charter of Rights and Freedoms, allows us to challenge any law. The Charter says in Section 7 : “Everyone has the right to life, liberty and security of the person, and the right not to be deprived thereof except in accordance with the principles of fundamental justice.”

Based on section 7 of the Charter, during the Carter v. Canada case of February 2015, Criminal Code sections 14 and 241 have been challenged as unconstitutional.  In that case, which involved several parties, including the family of Kay Carter, a woman suffering from degenerative spinal stenosis, and Gloria Taylor, a woman suffering from ALS, the Supreme Court unanimously ruled that these two sections of the Criminal Code are unconstitutional. I other words they ruled that not allowing people the right to assistance in dying violated their right to life, liberty and security. They gave the government until June 6, 2016 to re-write the law.

The Supreme Court of Canada said:  “We conclude that the prohibition on physician-assisted dying is void insofar as it deprives a competent adult of such assistance where 1) the person affected clearly consents to the termination of life and 2) the person has a grievous and irremediable medical condition (including an illness, disease or disability) that causes enduring suffering that is intolerable to the individual in the circumstances of his or her condition.”

 The ruling goes  on to say that “Criminal Code s. 214(b) and s. 14 infringe Canadian’s rights to life, liberty and security of the person, and do not do so in accordance with the principles of fundamental justice.” The request is subject to three conditions:

  1. Has to be made by a competent adult
  2. who is suffering from a grievous and irremediable medical condition that
  3. causes enduring and intolerable suffering.

The Supreme Court also added that nothing in their decision will compel a doctor to provide a physician-assisted death and that physician-assisted death is not available to minors, people with minor medical conditions or to people with psychiatric disorders.

Following this ruling, the federal government struck a joint committee to re-write the law and made 21 recommendations to the House of Commons. These recommendations are not yet law – they are recommendations, but they considerably expand the scope of physician-assisted death beyond what the Supreme Court decided was necessary to fit within the Charter.

For example the Joint Committee recommends that:

  • physician-assisted death be available to patients with psychiatric condition
  • physician-assisted death be made available to “mature minors” within 3 years
  • there be an allowance for the use of advanced directives once a patient is diagnosed, but before the suffering becomes intolerable
  • an objecting doctor be required to provide an effective referral for the requesting patient
  • All publicly funded health care institutions should provide physician-assisted death
  • Two doctors must agree that patient meets eligibility criteria for physician-assisted death

You may have noticed that the words “Euthanasia” and “Assisted suicide” are not to be found anywhere in any of these proposals, recommendations or suggestions. The term that is being used is “medically assisted dying” which is a term that avoids catch phrases like “suicide” and keep the proposed changes in the realm of health care services rather than the criminal courts. The term “medically assisted dying” includes both voluntary euthanasia and assisted suicide as per the definitions presented above.

Another complication is that even though the Criminal Code is under Federal jurisdiction, this will affect how medical services are delivered and that is under Provincial jurisdiction and so the new law will affect both levels of government. It will also affect all Medical Associations as they try to make sense of what that will mean for their members.

This is where we are now. There is no doubt that the law will change and that medically assisted dying is now a reality in Canada, but we don’t know exactly what the law will say or what limitations or safeguards will be in place. However, it’s likely that, in order to meet the June 6 deadline, as early as next week, the proposed law will be presented to the House of Commons and voting process will begin.

According to the Canadian Press, the new bill will not be as permissive as these recommendations suggest. Namely, the government will not adopt some of the most controversial recommendations from the special parliamentary committee. These include allowing mature minors the right to request assistance in dying; allowing advance requests for people who would like assistance if they get to the point where they have no competence; and allowing the request to be made by people suffering from psychiatric conditions or mental illness that impairs their competent ability to make the request. In rejecting these recommendations, the government would be creating a law that is very close to the Supreme Court parameters and would be trying to put safeguards in place so that the law cannot be abused.

On Friday, Prime Minister, Justin Trudeau said that, “As Liberals, we stand to defend individuals’ rights, but also need to make sure we’re protecting the most vulnerable.” Experts say that a restrictive bill would be open to many future Charter Challenges. Some say that a vague bill would also be subject to Charter Challenges, which is why many believe that safeguards don’t work. This is what would is referred to as ‘the slippery slope’.

As we move towards this new Canada it’s important that we have these conversations and that we inform ourselves as much as possible about these issues. More importantly, have these conversations with your family and loved ones. I invite you to watch the Every Life Matters series, presented by Archbishop Richard Smith of the Archdiocese of Edmonton. You can watch all the webcasts at www.caedm.ca and also, starting on April 23 on Salt + Light TV. You may also be interested in watching a series of interviews I am doing for our series Catholic Focus on End–of-Life Issues, which will air in May. More details on all these broadcasts as we approach those dates.

I can’t leave without inviting you to watch our award-winning documentary, Turning the Tide, which deals with Euthanasia and Assisted Suicide in Canada. It is a great documentary that presents all these themes very clearly and with its study guide, is perfect for classroom or for a parish event.


PedroHeadShot

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:pedro@saltandlighttv.org

Watch the Live Stream of Presentation of the Exhortation “Amoris Laetitia” (The Joy of Love)

exhortation-feature-610x343

Watch the Press Conference LIVE on Friday, April 8th 2016 at 5:30am ET.
Pope Francis’ Apostolic Exhortation on the family will be published on April 8th 2016. It is called, “Amoris Laetitia” latin for “The Joy of Love”.

Bishop Bolen on the CCCB response to the Truth and Reconciliation Commission

The Canadian Conference of Catholic Bishops released their response to the call to action issued by Canada’s Truth and Reconciliation Commission . Bishop Donald Bolen of Saskatoon is the head of the Canadian Bishops’ Justice and Peace Commission. He answers questions about the Church’s response to the TRC’s call to action, what it means, why it is necessary, and what comes next.

Related readings:
  • A Catholic Response to the “Doctrine of Discovery” and Terra Nullius. Download here.
  • A Catholic Response to Call to Action 48 of the Truth and Reconciliation Commission. Download here.
  • An interview with Bishop Donal Bolen: Transcript. Download here.
  • The Catholic Church and the TRC: An op-ed by Bishop Bolen. Download here. 
Perspectives Daily