Vulnerable people will be harmed, safeguards do not work and the focus should be on true compassion, a May 28 Euthanasia and Assisted Suicide workshop was told by Mary Deutscher, one of three speakers at the workshop. Regina Archdiocesan theologian Dr. Brett Salkeld gave a theological view of end-of-life issues and Winnipeg Emeritus Archbishop James Weisgerber spoke mainly to the preachers in the almost 100 registered. Deutscher has Biology and Philosophy Degrees from the University of Saskatchewan, a Masters Degree in Public Ethics from St. Paul’s University, Ottawa and is currently pursuing a PhD in Public Policy at the University of Saskatchewan. She continues to do extensive research on euthanasia and assisted suicide issues.
Deutscher defined what Euthanasia and assisted suicide are and are not because some confuse the two and often believe they are similar. Euthanasia is the deliberate taking of someone’s life with or without their permission and assisted suicide is helping an individual take their own life. Both are different than allowing an individual to die a natural death without artificial means to preserve life or withdrawing or refusing further medical aid. She also described double or unintended effect as acceptable in controlling pain and discomfort. “It is acceptable to administer medication to control pain even if it is possible that medication could end the individual’s life. The key is intent,” she said. In that she was backed up by Salkeld who spoke later. There should be more emphasis on palliative care, something which is seriously lacking in Canada but she noted that Regina, from her experience as former chaplain at Regina’s Pasqua Hospital, has the best in the country. “Compassion is from com which means together and passion is from the Passion of Christ. True compassion is sitting in the dark with someone when there is nothing else.”
Frequently interacting with the audience, Deutscher described how vulnerable people could be harmed by being pressured to end their lives; how it would change the health care system as health care workers might be required to provide a service with which they do not agree and could be either forced out or some contemplating entering the health care field would go somewhere else; values would change; a suicide contagion could develop as has happened in other areas where euthanasia and assisted suicide are allowed. She backed up all her arguments with statistics from countries and states that allow such actions.
Deutscher used the morning and part of the afternoon session for her presentation. Salkeld and Weisgerber each spoke for about a half hour in the afternoon. Salkeld focused on freedom; the freedom to not be pressured into an assisted suicide or euthanasia decision. Weisgerber spoke to the preachers about their responsibility of reaching out to people knowing where they are coming from and helping the vulnerable find hope.
All three took part in a panel discussion answering questions from the audience most of which were clarification of issues raised during earlier presentations.
The workshop was organized by Archdiocesan Vicar General Very Reverend Lorne Crozon, Rector of Holy Rosary Cathedral.