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Dying Time Can Be Good Time

The Parliamentary Assembly of the Council of Europe (PACE) is an advisory body to the European Union.  Based in Strasbourg, France, PACE has more than three hundred delegates. Their pronouncements of human rights issues are highly influential within the E.U.

Last month, PACE passed a resolution (No. 1859) that made a strong statement against euthanasia. The resolution was issued under the title “Protecting human rights and dignity by taking into account previously expressed wishes of patients.” Although PACE has no legislative authority, the resolution may prove to be a strong tool for Europe’s pro-Life advocates to resist further euthanasia acceptance such as Holland and Belgium have done.

The PACE resolution states, in part: “Euthanasia, in the sense of the intentional killing by act or omission of a dependent human being for his alleged benefit, must always be prohibited.”  Later in the document they stated that “surrogate decisions that rely on general value judgements present in society should not be admissible and, in case of doubt, the decision must always be pro-life and the prolongation of life.” [My emphasis added.]

Wow! I hope European Union member countries heed this document and enact its principles into law or use it to strengthen existing social policy and legislation against euthanasia.

We must not forget Europe’s sad experience with euthanasia dating back seventy years. The Nazi’s euthanasia programme killed thousands of mentally and physically handicapped Germans. It paved the way for the final solution. There are still people alive who remember those dark and terrible years. Was it perhaps a collective cultural memory that inadvertently helped fuel the PACE resolution? After all, it would be a terrible thing to discover that people learned nothing from history! Whatever the underlying motivation, Europe’s disabled and incurably ill citizens should be grateful for this timely document from such a prestigious Assembly.

If society does not protect and cherish every life then ultimately no life will be guaranteed protection.  Look what happened with widespread abortion acceptance over the past forty years. It resulted in a holocaust of unprecedented proportions!

In the midst of shifting social values that blow to and fro with every breeze of fashionable thinking, the Catholic Church has stood resolute and firm in defence of all human life from conception to natural death.  There have been times when it seemed that the Catholic Church stood alone for the value of human life.

Catholic teaching is unequivocal in its opposition to euthanasia. About direct euthanasia the Catechism of the Catholic Church states: “Whatever its motives and means, direct euthanasia consists of putting an end to the lives of handicapped, sick or dying persons. It is morally unacceptable. Thus an act or omission which, of itself or by intention, causes death in order to eliminate suffering constitutes a murder gravely contrary to the dignity of the human person and to the respect due to the living God, his Creator.” (No. 2277.)

It is not necessary to kill a person to eliminate suffering. Modern pain medications and techniques can control virtually all pain.  In fact, Ottawa end of life specialist Dr. John Scott has stated that complete pain relief can be achieved with careful attention and proper use of multiple drugs and therapies. It is important that treating physicians be educated in the latest pain control techniques and be supported by trained health care professionals. Dr. Scott noted that unrelieved pain can be traced back to problems with education or lack of resources.

This is important to understand when considering end of life issues.  The best way to counter demands for euthanasia is to ensure up-to-date palliative care and supports are available to people when required. Incurably ill or dying people need to know that their symptoms will be well controlled, that their emotional and spiritual pain will be addressed ? not only for themselves but also their families.

Divine love overcomes fear. People with incurable or terminal illnesses need God’s love. Their fear of being a burden or being abandoned will subside in the knowledge of God’s sustaining love.

It is so important for Christians to be reflectors of God’s love, in a spirit of service. When we befriend and journey with those who suffer, it is possible that they may see their dying as the last phase of living. Dying time can be good time. Bonds with loved-ones can be strengthened or renewed. A person’s final days can be a time for reconciliation with God and others. Euthanasia robs people of that natural conclusion to life when a person can discover that love really can overcome fear.


Mark Pickup is chronically ill and disabled with degenerative multiple sclerosis. He is an advocate for life issues and disability inclusion across North America. He and his wife, LaRee, have been married for 38 years. They live in Alberta Canada with their two adult children and five grandchildren. Mark is available to address issues of euthanasia, assisted suicide, and issues revolving around suffering that often fuel calls for euthanasia. He writes regularly at http://markpickup.org and http://humanlifematters.org. For bookings, contact him by e-mail at MPickup@shaw.ca or telephone (780) 929-9230. Mark Pickup's bi-weekly column can be read in the Western Catholic Reporter (Canada) at http://www.wcr.ab.ca/.


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