Alberta's Catholic Bishops are marking World Day of the Sick with a statement of grave concern about the proposed legalization of assisted suicide and euthanasia, and a call for extensive consultation before the province proceeds to allow the practice in its healthcare facilities.

The debate over doctor-assisted death began in February of 2015, when the Supreme Court of Canada struck down Canada’s existing laws prohibiting assisted suicide. New federal legislation is expected this year, and provinces are already developing regulatory guidelines.

"Our concerns have also been conveyed in a letter to our Premier and to the Minister of Health," Edmonton Archbishop Richard Smith said in releasing the statement on Thursday, February 11.

"The Catholic Church is committed to protecting and caring for the most vulnerable people in our society; this includes, of course, those who suffer and dying Albertans. Informed by our faith and tradition of caring for people who are poor, sick, or dying, we are convinced that excellent palliative care, understood to exclude physician assisted suicide and euthanasia, is the ethical way to ensure that all Albertans can die in a manner that respects their true human dignity.

"We want to be clear that, from a Catholic perspective, the intentional, willful act of killing oneself or another human being is morally wrong. This is a position that is informed not only by our faith and tradition but also by reason. When any life can be taken at will, the dignity of all lives is seriously eroded and respect for human life in our society as a whole is diminished. 

"Given the Supreme Court of Canada’s decision and the pending deliberations of both our Canadian Parliament and provincial government, we are issuing this statement to address some key considerations: 

  • First, if laws and regulations governing the legalized acceptance of assisted suicide and/or euthanasia are to be adopted, then we must accept that they will, in principle and practice, affect all Albertans. Therefore, we are asking the government to undertake a consultation process open to any and all who wish to speak to the issue. 
  • Second, we are gravely concerned that the legalization of assisted suicide and/or euthanasia will place certain members of our common home at serious risk. These include persons who are elderly, suffer from mental illness or are disabled. 
  • Third, physicians, other medical professionals, and our institutions have to be allowed the freedom that is theirs by right to exercise their conscience, not only to accord with our Charter of Rights and Freedoms, but also as a matter of good medical practice. Killing is not medicine. 

"Patient rights and the rights of family members must also be respected – that is, their civil right to access medical care for themselves and their loved ones in which there is no pressure to request or to submit to assisted suicide or euthanasia, and indeed their natural right to be served by doctors and institutions that practice only medicine and are not involved in state-sponsored killing. This is essential to maintaining the relationship of trust between patients and doctors or other care-givers.

"The decision of the Supreme Court of Canada makes legally permissible in some circumstances what is morally wrong in every circumstance: the taking of innocent human life. This is unacceptable in a truly just and ethical society."

The statement was signed by:

  • Archbishop Richard Smith of Edmonton
  • Auxiliary Bishop Gregory Bittman of Edmonton
  • Bishop Fred Henry of Calgary
  • Bishop Paul Terrio of St. Paul
  • Archbishop Gerard Pettipas of Grouard-McLennan
  • Bishop David Motiuk of the Ukrainian Eparchy of Edmonton

Read the full statement of the Catholic Bishops of Alberta

Déclaration en francais