Faith weighs in on assisted death

via The Chronicle Herald

The hot button topic of physician assisted-dying has some religious leaders speaking out, offering faith as a form of guidance.

Archbishop Anthony Mancini of the Archdiocese of Halifax-Yarmouth addresses the issue head on in an open letter to parishioners. The church will not support or condone the legalization of a practice that he calls “wrong” and “immoral,” he said in the letter.

“Respect for life from conception to natural death is no longer to be presumed or expected, nor is it protected by law,” wrote Mancini.

Mancini continues by reflecting on the evolution of Canadian society, and how popular thinking has moved away from the “Christian foundations of Canada.” He calls on Catholics to stay true to the belief that life is a sacred gift from God and to resist temptation to follow the crowd.

“As Catholics we must learn to live our faith in this present unwelcoming culture which promotes death rather than respect for life,” wrote Mancini.

As of Tuesday the Criminal Code of Canada will no longer prevent medical professionals from assisting patients in ending their lives. The Liberals had initially hoped to have a new law in place before the deadline, but the Bill C-14 has yet to clear the Senate.

Catholics take a hard “no” against assisted dying, but Halifax Muslim leader Jamal Badawi says the Islamic faith takes a slightly different approach.

In Islam, life is seen as a gift, Badawi said. “Life and health are not just our absolute property. They all belong to God and we are trustees.”

Badawi said in an interview that Muslims differentiate between active and passive euthanasia and there is some contention, among Muslim scholars and doctors concerning what constitutes “death.”

Active euthanasia is a deliberate action to cause the death of a patient, such as administering an injection. Passive euthanasia is when a patient dies because doctors either cannot do something or stop doing something that is keeping the patient alive.

Badawi says active euthanasia and suicide are frowned upon, and even forbidden, in the Islamic faith. But he says some Muslim leaders and doctors view passive euthanasia as permissible. This would be the case in an extreme situation when a doctor predicts, to the best of his or her ability, that the person will not recover.

“If there is a very strong reason to believe that the person is dead, even in the modern sense, there is no obligation to keep the equipment (running) that may be needed to help someone else that has hope or a chance of life,” said Badawi.

Both Badawi and Archbishop Anthony Mancini encourage followers of their faith to remain well informed on what is at stake in legalization of medically assisted suicide.

In his open letter, Mancini calls on parishioners to be very careful in their choice of health care providers and encourages them to respect Christian values and to engage with community members and family about end of life wishes.

Original publish date: Jun. 7, 2016

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