The Supreme Court of Canada (SCC) recently ruled that Canada’s existing laws against assisted suicide are unconstitutional, and gave federal and provincial governments 12 months to change them.
In response to this decision, a group of Christian Reformed Church leaders have written a letter bringing the issue to the attention of Canadian CRC congregations and discussing some of the issues involved in the SCC’s action, says Rev. Mark Stephenson, the Disability Concerns director for Christian Reformed Church.
“This unanimous decision of the Court is nuanced and complex, requiring prayer and careful discernment. Compassion for suffering, protection of vulnerable people, and the celebration and affirmation of life are all Biblical values that our communities hold dear. The national dialogue needs the voices of Christians who graciously speak these values into the deeply controversial issue of physician-assisted suicide,” says the letter.
The letter is signed by Darren Roorda, Director of Canadian Ministries, Mark Stephenson of Disability Concerns, Peter Vander Meulen of the Office of Social Justice and Mike Hogeterp of the Centre for Public Dialogue.
The letter describes some of the reasoning behind the SCC’s decision, which ruled that “laws against physician-assisted suicide violate rights to life, liberty, and security (Section 7 of the Charter of Rights and Freedoms) by restricting the choices of individuals who experience ‘intolerable suffering.’”
The court has also ruled that “in certain circumstances, an individual’s choice about the end of her life is entitled to respect” and is “recommending the development of new laws that define the circumstances of acceptable physician-assisted suicide.”
“This SCC decision has shifted the ground for PAS in Canada. We are all greatly concerned by this new and mandatory legal reality, but this decision is also an opportunity to craft real life-affirming legislation,” says the letter.
The letter also points out that Synod 2000 adopted the following resolution concerning end of life issues (Acts of Synod 2000, Article 59, p.708):
That with respect to public policy, churches:
- Encourage the allocation of health-care funding for adequate palliative services, home care, and medical support services for all people.
- Encourage government initiatives that will allow medical treatment aimed at pain relief even if that treatment may unintentionally shorten life.
- Encourage government initiatives that will promote life-affirming legislation and oppose legislation that endorses assisted suicide or mercy killing.
The letter encourages church members to “encourage our leaders to work for new laws on PAS that emphasize compassion (including aggressive pain management,, great palliative care, and robust legal measures to protect vulnerable people, including people with disabilities.”
“It is important that our government representatives hear from us on this issue now. Building respectful relationships with them is key to helping them in the process of crafting new laws that reflect the important values of compassion and protection of the vulnerable,” says the letter.
Here are some simple ways to make connections and start the conversation:
(For more information on the significance of the SCC decision, please consider reading this article from Cardus.)