Chaplain's Corner

Assisted Suicide

  • Larry Hirst, Author
  • Retired Chaplain, Bethesda Place

The Toronto Star reported in August 2015 that 77% of Canadians approve of Assisted Suicide. The CBC in April of 2017 reported that in the first 10 months after Physician Assisted Death became legal that 1324 people had died as a result of physician assisted death. That is 132 people a month or 4.4 persons a day have been ending their life by means of physician assisted death in the first 10 months of it being legal. It has now been almost two years since the law passed and for the most part the noise surrounding the issue has died down and deaths are happening daily in Canada with the assistance of doctors and medical teams.

Like most of this kind of social issue, a lot of heat and fire are created when debate rages around legislation that will radically change the norm, then things die down. A few remain vocal about issues, as has been true in the abortion issue and will remain true in this euthanasia issue, but for the most part the vast majority of Canadians will just go with the flow. And this is no surprise since in a diverse and inclusive society like Canada where morals and ethics are driven primarily by pragmatics and the lowest moral common denominator.

So it is now legal anywhere in Canada. If a person meets the eligibility criterion, a person can request the help of a medical team to bring his/her life to an end. But there is something we should keep in mind: legal and moral are at times two different things, just as legal and ethical are at times two different things. An act may be legal but both immoral and unethical and this is precisely where the debates around MAiD swirl. If you are interested in our region’s policy it can be downloaded here.

Over the years this topic has experienced a number of significant semantical evolutions. Semantics is about words, especially using the correct word for the meaning intended. Unfortunately, these semantical alterations have been made more to obscure than to make clear the meaning of what is being said. It has been called: mercy killing; voluntary, active euthanasia; suicide aided by another; physician assisted suicide; physician assisted death and presently medical assistance in dying or MAiD. These semantical evolutions have all had one intent – to soften the reality of what is being talked about: one person assisting another person to commit suicide.

Many call this societal evolution, the slow but steady improvement of a society as it weeds out old, archaic mores that restrict and embraces new, liberating mores. This may very well be the majority opinion of Canadians on the issue of assisted suicide but it will never be embraced by me and there are several non-negotiable reasons for my steadfast position against any form of assisted suicide – regardless of what you chose to call it.

First, it is my belief that we, human beings, are a race created and sustained by God and created for his glory; thus for me every act must be evaluated against this belief. Second, it is my belief that God alone has the right to give life and to take life and that any human choice to take a life that is not directed by God’s Word is sinful. Third, it is my belief that suffering here on earth is intended to draw us closer to God and to purify our faith in God. Finally, it is my belief that each depraved attempt to wrest from God’s hands his prerogatives always results in the devolution of a society and a degrading of human dignity. I’ve read the arguments for assisted suicide and I have come to reject them entirely. How carefully have you thought through the issues related to this development?

Chaplain's Corner was written by Bethesda Place now retired chaplain Larry Hirst. The views and opinions expressed in this blog are solely that of the writer and do not represent the views or opinions of people, institutions or organizations that the writer may have been associated with professionally.