Tuesday, May 10, 2016

MAID in Canada

On Friday evening Bridge St. UC hosted a Kente Presbytery event featuring Member of Parliament and United Church minister, Rob Oliphant. I've known Rob for 35 years, and when I saw that he was co-chair of the joint senate and parliament committee given the task of writing a report on Medical Assistance in Dying I started an email conversation. This is a subject which I can't recall ever being addressed at a meeting of presbytery or conference, although our current moderator, Jordan Cantwell, did offer a thoughtful "general epistle" on the subject.

Rob kindly offered to speak to a gathering in Belleville and we worked around his busy schedule. A Friday evening at 6:00 PM on what was the loveliest day of the year so far did not bode well for attendance -- or so I thought. Somewhat to our surprise, roughly 90 people appeared, and they were an attentive crowd. I interviewed Rob with a series of questions which he answered thoughtfully and engagingly. At the conclusion of the interview there were some very direct questions and a bit of speechifying, even though I asked people not to succumb to that temptation. It was evident that the majority of those present supported legislation which will remove medically assisted suicide or death from the criminal code and create safeguards and guidelines. Some were quite testy at the lack of provision for advanced directives, and felt that the proposed legislation wasn't going far enough to satisfy the Supreme Court decision last year. We'll see.

I have written about my reservations concerning assisted death, from a number of standpoints. We must protect the vulnerable, and support those who may make this choice out of feeling they are a burden to others. We need comprehensive supportive or palliative care, which may take years to put in place in a country where healthcare dollars are already stretched. I think it is right that faith communities push the government to be thorough in addressing the ethical issues, although I am convinced that governments aren't all that skilled at addressing moral and ethical issues.

I mentioned an article in a recent Christian Century by a Dutch ethicist who expressed his second thoughts on the practice in the Netherlands and it is worth reading. http://www.christiancentury.org/article/2016-03/rushing-toward-death

I do feel that Friday evening was helpful, and participants were grateful for Rob's presence and reflections. Here's hoping and praying that our society enters into this with wisdom and respect for both the sanctity of life and individuals rights.

Were you there Friday evening? Do you wish you had attended? Have you read the proposed legislation?


Frank said...

I attended this event and I thought that the engagement opportunity it offered was very important.
It echoed a similar evening that was hosted at Bridge Street in October 2012 when Bruce Gregerson spoke regarding the then recent General Council decision regarding consumer action related to the Israeli occupation of Palestinian territory.
These issues can be divisive and generate some rancor. However, they also present opportunities to get our fellow congregents engaged in dialogue and important things that get the attention of our church, and our communities, in general.

Judy McKnight said...

The main focus of the event was important and the information valuable and well explained.... I appreciated being there .

As an aside, I was thrilled to hear about the Private Members' Bill coming up, to change the words of our National Anthem, from "...in all our sons command" to "... in all of us command" - I have been singing it this way for years and it is long overdue ...

Lori Graham said...

David, thanks for the link to the Christian Century article. A bit of a chilling read, but that discomfort is essential. Most of what I have read on the subject has left me feeling that the goal of discussion is less to inform and more to desensitize.

David Mundy said...

Thanks to all of you, and great to hear from you Lori. There are a number of concerns which we shouldn't gloss over as legislation is established. I think the letter from UCC moderator Jordan Cantwell is wise and addresses a number of those concerns head on.