Monday, November 30, 2009

And the diocese endorses .....

On Saturday, Alex Schadenberg spoke on the subjects of euthanasia and assisted suicide to interested persons in Halifax. Alex is the executive director of the Euthanasia Prevention Coalition, an advocacy group that he founded ten years ago in response to the trial of Robert Latimer, a man who had gassed his own daughter who suffered from cerebral palsy.

Alex has six children of his own, one of whom has autism, and the Latimer case brought home to him the fact that the disabled will be threatened by any legalization of euthanasia or assisted suicide.

One attendee at the talk was a woman who had suffered through cancer and its treatment only to be a victim of a car accident that left her severely handicapped. At age 54, with a terminal disease compounded by losing the use of her legs, Maggie was thinking seriously of euthanasia. She felt life had become too much of a burden. However, she survived and she was there at Alex's talk to bear witness to the fact that Bill C-384 will threaten people like her, if it is passed. She had also called the press and the television stations and had managed to get a reporter from the Chronicle Herald to attend, as well as a reporter and photographer from CTV.

I was anxious to hear how Alex departed from Dr. Nuala Kenny on this subject, since I had been forewarned that he did. I posted previously about how Dr. Kenny was not very clear on the subject of removing nutrition and hydration. I had emailed her to try and get more information about where she stood on this issue, but she declined to comment, stating "Sorry, these are not topics amenable to e-mail; misunderstanding is inevitable." (November 13, 2009)

Alex was quite clear on this subject however. Removing nutrition and hydration from a patient who is not dying is euthanasia; removing nutrition and hydration from a patient who is dying may be considered, because there comes a point where the person's body cannot handle these and organs are shutting down; at this point, it is actually wise to remove food and fluids and "let the person die".

Now, why could Dr. Kenny not be as clear as that? I think that she was not clear on this, because she herself does not consider removing food and fluids to be euthanasia. It would seem that she is willing to make a judgment about quality of life and take measures based on that; Alex Schadenberg states very clearly that we cannot make decisions that bring about a person's death on the basis of whether we think their life has quality or not. This is the danger zone at which we must draw the line clearly and maintain it.

It is pretty darn clear, that if a person is suffering from something terminal or is the victim of an accident and they are dying, their body will reject further care. The difference must be made between treatment and care; we may dispense with treatment, when such treatment will no longer be of any benefit to the person. What we must keep in mind here is that giving nutrition and hydrating a person is not treatment; it is basic nursing care, and such care must never be discontinued. To cease such care is to deprive a person of what they deserve simply by virtue of being a human being.

What is disturbing is that Dr. Kenny's talk was offered by the Diocese of Halifax and was attended by approximately 200 persons; Alex's talk was offered by the pro-life group of St. Thomas Aquinas/Canadian Martyrs Parish and was attended by 80 persons. Which view received the endorsement of the diocese?

The people who attended Dr. Kenny's talk are sure that she gave them the Church teaching on what constitutes a good death and where to draw the distinctions between letting someone die and committing euthanasia. However, Dr. Kenny did not define that difference very well, and she actually stated that she disagreed with the Magisterium of the Church on the death of Terry Schiavo. Alex Schadenberg did not hesitate to say that Terry Schiavo was euthanised, as did Pope John Paul II. So it is Alex who is giving the accurate Church teaching on the subject of euthanasia.

If only the bishop and the clergy had been present to hear both talks, and if only they were interested enough to find out where they should be on this issue.

Visit Alex's blog here

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