Compassion or Convenience?

By Pier E MS

On Saturday, Feb. 6, 2016 a public forum presentation on Physician-assisted Dying (PAD) was held at St. Andrews Anglican Church in Calgary where about 140 people attended.

Canada has legalized the practice of PAD and will be freely administered to those who seek aid in dying by June 6, 2016, although it was supposed to come into effect Feb. 6, 2016.

Panelist professor Juliet Guichon informs the panel and the audience on the legal aspects of PAD.

“A person who helps or encourages another person to commit suicide can be sentenced to 14 years in jail,” said Juliet Guichon summarizing old section seven of the Criminal Code of Canada (CCC).

Physician Assisted Death panel presentation at St. Andrews Anglican Church in Calgary on Saturday, Feb. 6, 2016. (Photo by Pier Moreno Silvestri/SAIT Polytechnic)
Juliet Guichon at a Physician Assisted Death panel presentation at St. Andrews Anglican Church in Calgary on Saturday, Feb. 6, 2016. (Photo by Pier E MS)

“What the five sections amounted to is that they made medical assistance in dying culpable homicide, murder, manslaughter,” Guichon said.

Panelist Dr. David Swann said, “What I have found in my own Christian faith is that doctors are playing god.”

U of C alumnus and panelist, Philip Zacariah, supplies legal counsel with emphasis on health-related issues during this panel presentation.

“Palliative care includes PAD,” Zacariah said, “Collaboration between the federal provincial governments to provide a smooth and timely implementation of PAD. Access, it has to be publicly available and equal to all people regardless of where they live in the country.”

Bradley Peter, a volunteer at Dying with Dignity: Calgary Chapter, whose Grandmother died of cancer in 2009, said, “Her death was barbaric and inhumane.”

“My grandma was given the option of starvation and dehydration,” he said, this was very hard for him to watch and for his grandmother to experience.

Panelist Dr. Eric Wasylenko said, “As a physician I will not supply assisted death.”

“Physician’s rank to have a conscientious objection,” Peter said is a fair argument in the doctor’s perspective along with a patient’s right to choose. “But we don’t support a physician that has a conscientious objection and then abandons the patient.”

“My father committed suicide. He was depressed and alone while he slowly died,” Janice Church (78) said. “In a different circumstance we might have all been there when he died, and said a proper goodbye.”

“The ‘convenience’ part of the title of this presentation is a pejorative or a negative term,” said Peter. “It’s as if someone comes seeking assisted death and you would say to them ‘how convenient’”

“Yes, it is convenient,” Peter said. “Because you know what’s really inconvenient? […] It was really inconvenient when my grandma had to starve herself to death just so she wouldn’t suffer anymore. Yes, it is convenient and it should be.”

“The best way to respect someone’s sanctity of life is allowing that person to define the sanctity of their own life,” Peter said. “It’s our choice, our life, and ultimately now our right.”

Grace Northcott (73), a member of the audience, said, “When you reach a certain age if you stop fighting you die, but some people don’t get to that point. Some people just suffer to death.”

Physician Assisted Death panel presentation at St. Andrews Anglican Church in Calgary on Saturday, Feb. 6, 2016. (Photo by Pier Moreno Silvestri/SAIT Polytechnic)
Daranne Harris at a Physician Assisted Death panel presentation at St. Andrews Anglican Church in Calgary on Saturday, Feb. 6, 2016. (Photo by Pier E MS)

Panelist pastoral theologian, Daranne Harris, said, “Humans are sinful vessels of God’s grace […]. We are like God, but we are not God.”