Bishops file submission to AB gov't on physician assisted death

The Catholic Bishops of Alberta have filed a submission to the Alberta government's public consultation on Physician Assisted Death, saying the Church and its institutions remain committed to serving the vulnerable and suffering, but cannot participate in, condone, or advocate for physician assisted suicide or euthanasia.

In the four-page submission to Associate Health Minister Brandy Payne, the bishops state that "Catholic health care neither prolongs dying nor hastens death out of a deep respect for the sanctity of all human life." They address the need for excellence in palliative care, for protection of the vulnerable such as aged, disabled or mentally ill people, and defend the rights of all healthcare professionals to refuse to participate in assisted suicide or euthanasia.

The government's public consultation survey, which closes on Thursday, March 31, had asked for opinions on safeguards that could be implemented to help protect potentially vulnerable people, such as the elderly or disabled.

"When weighed against the evidence in other jurisdictions that have legalized assisted suicide and euthanasia, and in light of the recommendations of the Special Joint Parliamentary Committee, the only safeguard we can 'practically' propose is to use whatever constitutional and regulatory means you have at your disposal to prevent these practices from happening in our province," the bishops wrote. "It is not enough to set in place a system to monitor mistakes and abuses against vulnerable persons. The risks surrounding physician assisted death are absolute; mistakes and abuses cannot be undone."

The submission is signed by Archbishop Richard Smith and Auxiliary Bishop Gregory Bittman of Edmonton, Bishop Frederick Henry of Calgary, Archbishop Gerard Pettipas of Grouard-McLennan, Bishop Paul Terrio of St. Paul, and Bishop David Motiuk of the Ukrainian Catholic Eparchy of Edmonton.

Read the full text of the Alberta Bishops' submission