Canadian Church leaders and advocates for the disabled have reacted with dismay at a decision by the Supreme Court of Canada to strike down laws against physician-assisted suicide, reports the Catholic News Service.
In a unanimous decision on February 6, the court ruled that doctors can help adults with severe and incurable conditions to die, overturning a 1993 ban against assisted suicide.
Archbishop Paul-Andre Durocher of Gatineau, Quebec, president of the Canadian Conference of Catholic Bishops, noted that "Catholics are called by their faith to assist all those in need, particularly the poor, the suffering and the dying."
"Helping someone commit suicide, however, is neither an act of justice or mercy, nor is it part of palliative care. The decision of the Supreme Court of Canada today does not change Catholic teaching," he said.
Archbishop J Michael Miller of Vancouver, British Columbia, said he was "deeply troubled by the court's decision to overturn the law," and he urged Catholics "to join with other advocates for vulnerable persons to respond with urgency."
"Until today, Canadian legislation has been designed to protect those inclined toward ending their lives. That protection has now been eliminated," he said.
The Archbishop said many people want assisted suicide because of the lack of adequate palliative care. "In order to provide hope for those who suffer, we call on all levels of government, the healing professions, and hospitals and care facilities to ensure truly equal and inclusive access to such care. We have the technology to control pain, and we have the ability to overcome loneliness and despair," he said.