Alberta bishops 'disappointed' by federal report on doctor-assisted death

The Bishops have vocally opposed doctor-assisted death and penned a strongly worded letter on Thursday in response to the recommendations found in the federal report.

The Bishops penned a strongly worded letter saying, 'this has no place in a just and ethical society"

A woman holds the hand of her mother who is dying from cancer during her final hours at a palliative care hospital in Winnipeg July 24, 2010. Picture taken July 24, 2010. (Shaun Best/Reuters)

The Catholic Bishops of Alberta are "deeply disappointed" with a federal report released Thursday in regards to doctor-assisted death. 

The Bishops have vocally opposed doctor-assisted death from the beginning and penned a strongly worded letter in response to the recommendations found in the federal report. 

"What is at issue here is state-sponsored killing of the innocent. Killing is not medicine," it read. 

"This has no place in a just and ethical society."

The 70-page report titled "Medical Assistance in Dying: A Patient-Centred Approach," written by a special committee of MPs and senators, found that mature minors and the mentally ill should not be excluded from the right to doctor-assisted death.

In total, the report made 21 recommendations. 

Assisted dying eport says Canadians should also be allowed to make 'advance request' to die 1:40

In their letter, the Bishops singled out several recommendations as "troubling." They feel that they "go far beyond what was contemplated in the Supreme Court decision" and say that it is unacceptable that Catholic hospitals may have to provide this service. 

The Bishop's remark that if these recommendations are followed, it will result in doctors failing to protect "some of the most vulnerable people among us," including children and the mentally ill.

The report says that physical and psychiatric conditions should not cause a person to be excluded from doctor assistance to end suffering.

"The committee recognizes that there will be unique challenges in applying the eligibility criteria for medical assistance in dying where the patient has a mental illness, particularly where such an illness is the condition underlying the request," the report reads.

"However, where a person is competent and fits the other criteria set out by law, the committee does not see how that individual could be denied a recognized Charter right based on his or her mental health condition."
A Supreme Court unanimous ruling said the ban on physician assisted death violated Canadians' charter rights. (Sean Kilpatrick/Canadian Press)

Lorraine Turchansky, the Communications and Public Relations director for the Archdiocese of Edmonton, said that Bishops will continue to lobby about this subject provincially.

"Certainly we know that the provinces have jurisdiction over health care," said Turchansky.

"From that point of view, the Alberta bishops are very concerned about what might happen in Alberta hospitals or might happen to Albertan people and Albertan doctors."

The Bishops say they will continue to study the document and prepare a more detailed response. 

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