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HomeArticlePro-life advocates fight against euthanasia expansions across Canada, Australia

Pro-life advocates fight against euthanasia expansions across Canada, Australia

Pro-life advocates fight against euthanasia expansions across Canada, Australia

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By Daniel Payne

CNA Staff, Feb 21, 2024 / 07:00 am (CNA).

Pro-life advocates around the world are working to counteract continued efforts by euthanasia activists to pass and expand laws allowing doctors to help kill their patients.

Euthanasia made global headlines this month when former Dutch Prime Minister Dries van Agt and his wife, Eugenie, chose to have themselves euthanized, both at the age of 93. The couple, who had been married for over 60 years, “died hand in hand,” the Dutch Rights Forum said.

The Netherlands has among the most permissive euthanasia laws in the world, allowing boys and girls as young as 12 to end their own lives if certain conditions are met. Several other European countries — including Portugal, Spain, and Belgium — have also instituted liberal euthanasia regimes.

In Canada, meanwhile, euthanasia and assisted suicide have been legal for nearly a decade after the government began permitting it in 2016. The Trudeau administration this month postponed until 2027 plans to expand the assisted suicide program to include those suffering from mental illness after a parliamentary report said the country’s health system is “not ready.”

Jack Fonseca, the director of political operations for the Campaign Life Coalition, told CNA that his group is planning a “major protest” at the Canadian Parliament for later this month, one that will “send the message to the prime minister and all elected lawmakers that a three-year delay in expanding euthanasia is not good enough.”

“We want the government to completely and permanently abandon its plans to allow doctors to kill mentally ill patients and those who are depressed,” Fonseca said.

Fonseca said that Pierre Poilievre, a member of Parliament and the leader of Canada’s Conservative Party, has vowed to repeal the country’s Bill C-7 if he is elected prime minister next year. That law when enacted in 2021 permitted the pending assisted suicide expansion.

“I think every pro-life group in the country will now turn to holding Mr. Poilievre to his promise,” Fonseca said. “This is especially true since Trudeau’s Liberal regime is tanking in the polls, and it seems inevitable that Conservatives will take power in 2025.”

“Poilievre’s Conservative Party is expected to win the next election with a massive majority,” he said. “So, the pro-life movement is going to use every avenue we can to continually remind Poilievre, and his Conservative caucus, that he must immediately repeal Bill C-7 during his first term, within the first 100 days of his administration.”

In Australia, all six of the country’s states currently allow assisted suicide, or “voluntary assisted dying” (VAD). The Victoria state government is currently undergoing a five-year review of its own assisted suicide program, which it first implemented in 2019.

That review is merely operational and is not recommending any expansions of the program as it currently stands. But Jasmine Yuen, the Victorian state director of the Australian Christian Lobby (ACL), told CNA that she wouldn’t “rule out future legislative changes.”

“I believe VAD advocates will make good use of this review to push through some agendas,” she said, “and the government will use the feedbacks to justify future changes or expansion that could include telehealth services and removing the gag clause to allow doctors to recommend VAD to patients.”

“All pro-life groups, including ACL in Victoria and all states and territories, will be working against any expansion [including] the inclusion of children and other illnesses into the scheme,” Yuen said.

Other states in Australia permit doctors to initiate conversations about assisted suicide, Yuen noted, though the country’s federal euthanasia law imposes some barriers to the practice.

“It’s a matter of years that we’ll go further down the slippery slope,” she said, “but the pro-life groups will push back as much as we can for the sanctity of life.”

Paul Osborne, a spokesman for the Australian Catholic Bishops Conference, noted that “one of the most pressing issues at the moment in Australia is the push to allow doctors to undertake euthanasia-related consultations online and over the phone.”

“The Church says this is abhorrent,” Osborne said, “and the Australian government at this stage agrees that it is a bridge too far.”

Osborne pointed to a document released by the bishops’ conference there last year on the topic of euthanasia. “To Witness and to Accompany with Christian Hope” is meant as “a service to those who are called to attend to the spiritual and pastoral needs of patients who access or seek to access services that are designed to terminate a person’s life,” the manual says.

The letter instructed that priests administering sacraments to potentially suicidal individuals must endeavor to steer them away from that choice by explaining how the practice is “not consistent with respect for God’s gift of life.”

“If a patient is resolved upon a course of action, such as euthanasia, which is so clearly and gravely in conflict with the teaching and life of the Church, then — even if the patient believes they are choosing rightly — the patient should nonetheless recognize, or be helped to recognize, that it would not be right for him or her to receive the sacraments,” the bishops wrote in the manual.

Dr. Moira McQueen, the executive director of the Canadian Catholic Bioethics Institute, told CNA this month that the country’s euthanasia law “would have to be revoked” to halt the mental illness expansion there, an outcome she called “highly unlikely.”

Daniel Zekveld, a policy analyst for the Canadian Association for Reformed Political Action, said in a statement to CNA that the group has been opposed to the country’s suicide program expansion since 2021 via its Care Not Kill campaign.

“Like many Canadians, medical professionals, and other organizations, Care Not Kill has emphasized the importance of suicide prevention instead of suicide assistance,” he said. “Expanding euthanasia to those with mental illness encourages a culture of neglect and devalues the lives of those who are suffering.”

Care Not Kill has conducted extensive outreach to that end, Zekveld said, including a campaign that distributed 200,000 flyers. The group has also encouraged political engagement and has submitted briefs to the government commission studying the expansion.

“These efforts will continue until the government puts a stop to the expansion of euthanasia for those with mental illness,” he said. “With another delay scheduled, we now have three additional years to advocate for caring for, not killing, those with mental illness.”

Fonseca, meanwhile, said the Campaign Life Coalition recently helped pass a policy resolution at the National Convention of the Conservative Party of Canada, one meant to further strengthen the party’s stance against euthanasia there.

“We oppose MAID [medical assistance in dying] for people living with disabilities or mental illness seeking to die based on poverty, homelessness, or inability to receive medical treatment,” the policy said. “Euthanasia must not be an abandonment of people living with genuine needs.”

 

 

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