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» Ship of Fools   » Community discussion   » Purgatory   » Ministry when it is an "assisted death" or euthanasia?

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Source: (consider it) Thread: Ministry when it is an "assisted death" or euthanasia?
no prophet's flag is set so...

Proceed to see sea
# 15560

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I am not completely clear on the terms "assisted death" and "euthanasia". Some seem to equate them and others suggest they are different. What I am referred to is when a physician or other health care person is authorised by law to inject a person with a drug or series of drugs which will end their lives.

In Canada this was legalised a while ago and we are told ~2,000 people have died an medically assisted death. As far as I understand it from inspecting the local protocol is that the person says they want it, informs the doc, who consults another doc or a panel, forms are filled out, examinations ensue, a waiting period expires, death is scheduled.

The questions I have are:

1. Are clergy ever asked to be present at the time of scheduled death, and would they attend if asked?

2. Would clergy minister to the person as they form their intent and begin to request assisted death? Do clergy object and voice objections during this decision formation?

3. Is there a difference between an elderly person whose condition is terminal and someone who doesn't have a terminal condition but is suffering a lot? Does quality of life equate to suffering?

There may be other questions.

I am not clergy, I have been present at several deaths. I don't think assisted death is something I will ever come to support, and would probably not attend at such a death. When my time comes, palliative sedation if need be, but not active ending of life (sedated out of suffering, natural course of life and death occurs).

I think one of the problems is that when assisted death is discussed we assume terminal illness, when it may not be that, it may actually be quality of life and not exactly suffering borne from illness. I also worry about engineering elder care to provide poor quality of life such that people may choose death as better than a shi**y life in care homes. I think that ministering in the context of assisted death is thus fraught with problems. I have a bit more to think about, but was concerned to post for discussion when I saw the statistic.

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Posts: 11183 | From: Treaty 6 territory in the nonexistant Province of Buffalo, Canada ↄ⃝' | Registered: Mar 2010  |  IP: Logged
Eutychus
From the edge
# 3081

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A bit of Googling suggests that 2,000 is less than 1% of the total annual number of deaths in Canada, so I'd say the issue is marginal. It would be interesting to see how the figure changes over time.

quote:
Is there a difference between an elderly person whose condition is terminal and someone who doesn't have a terminal condition but is suffering a lot?
Canada seems to think there is. The Wikipedia page is currently not very well worded, but says:
quote:
The current law's requirement that a natural death must be "reasonably foreseeable" or "incurable" (...) excludes people with long-term disabilities, and those with "curable" medical conditions whose only treatment options people may find unacceptable
although this is being challenged to broaden the application of the
quote:
ruling mandating assisted dying be made available to all adults with "grievous and irremediable" medical conditions
Which still seems to exclude non-medical quality of life issues.

[ 11. October 2017, 05:08: Message edited by: Eutychus ]

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Let's remember that we are to build the Kingdom of God, not drive people away - pastor Frank Pomeroy

Posts: 17316 | From: 528491 | Registered: Jul 2002  |  IP: Logged
SvitlanaV2
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# 16967

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Assisted suicide (and euthanasia) is against the law in most countries so it's hard to imagine that the clergy there would chose to be present during the act - or be willing to admit to it publicly. It's conceivable that a minister of religion in such a case would be charged as an accessory to a crime.

Moreover, assisted suicide is usually presented as a firmly secular response to severe pain and physical indignity. I'm sure there are many churchgoers who'd agree with it, but in this case I don't think we've yet reached the stage where a tolerant majority are waiting for institutional religious values to catch up with the wider culture. I suppose it might happen.

Posts: 6473 | From: UK | Registered: Feb 2012  |  IP: Logged
HCH
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# 14313

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I think there must be a spectrum of events of which actually assisted suicide is at one extreme. I imagine there are often clergy present when a decision is made to end life support for a comatose patient. Thus far, I have little personal experience of this sort of thing (thank goodness).
Posts: 1509 | From: Illinois, USA | Registered: Nov 2008  |  IP: Logged
Augustine the Aleut
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# 1472

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Of the three assisted departures of which I am acquainted, two were of people who had no religious affiliation. Of these, one was attended by a humanist counsellor (www.humanistcanada.ca/ceremonies/humanist-ceremonies) who was there to assist and I suppose coordinate family members who were doing readings while the drugs took effect. The third was Jewish (who had once defined her affiliation as reformadox) and had met with her rabbi several times in the lead-up to the procedure-- while he was not present at the time of death, volunteers from the local chevrah were in the next room and moved in as soon as it was determined.
Posts: 6171 | From: Ottawa, Canada | Registered: Oct 2001  |  IP: Logged
Tortuf
Ship's fisherman
# 3784

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Death is as much a part of life as birth. If someone feels they have suffered enough and there is no way to get better compassion is the best reaction.

I do not believe it is ever my place to judge someone else, especially the suffering of someone else.

My father was faced with lapsing into a coma from which would not recover. He chose instead to have comfort measures only. When it became evident that he would lapse into the same coma on comfort measures he chose to have even his nasal cannula removed and extra morphine administered to deal with the pain of oxygen deprivation.

That is what we all said.

What actually went on was that he was given enough morphine to suppress his CNS to the point he died. It happens all the time in hospitals. It is generally given some sort of sugar coated description so it does not sound like euthanasia or assisted death. And, it is the same result no matter what it is called.

In my father's case he chose to end the pain of fearing death. He chose to not let his family suffer financially because of the cost of keeping him in the hospital while comatose for months without hope of recovery.

I believe his choice was the right one, just as the hundreds and thousands just like him made the right choice.

It was hard enough removing my father's nasal cannula at his direction and watching him die. God help me what agonies he and I would have suffered if I had chosen to judge him instead of acting with all the compassion and love I could muster.

Posts: 6903 | From: The Venice of the South | Registered: Dec 2002  |  IP: Logged
Rossweisse

High Church Valkyrie
# 2349

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Ah-men, and thank you, Tortuf.

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I'm not dead yet.

Posts: 14757 | From: Valhalla | Registered: Feb 2002  |  IP: Logged
Augustine the Aleut
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# 1472

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Here, by the way, is a statement by the Alberta & NWT Latin RC bishops on the topic.
Posts: 6171 | From: Ottawa, Canada | Registered: Oct 2001  |  IP: Logged
Gee D
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# 13815

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Sorry Augustine, that site can't be reached.

It is not euthanasia to turn off life support. That's giving the body a chance to survive on its own - as long as sufficient painkillers are given to limit any suffering once the support's turned off. There is a hospital near us, virtually all of whose patients are in their last day or 2. Commonly those patients have no food or water but again are assisted. That's not euthanasia either. Nor is the combination of a large number of painkillers over a couple of days. Lots of variations on a theme.

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Not every Anglican in Sydney is Sydney Anglican

Posts: 6774 | From: Warrawee NSW Australia | Registered: Jun 2008  |  IP: Logged
Palimpsest
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# 16772

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There are probably many reactions to the question. On the other hand, My understanding is that there is usually clergy present in those places that still have state executions. What makes the difference?
Posts: 2984 | From: Seattle WA. US | Registered: Nov 2011  |  IP: Logged
Augustine the Aleut
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# 1472

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quote:
Originally posted by Gee D:
Sorry Augustine, that site can't be reached.

It is not euthanasia to turn off life support. That's giving the body a chance to survive on its own - as long as sufficient painkillers are given to limit any suffering once the support's turned off. There is a hospital near us, virtually all of whose patients are in their last day or 2. Commonly those patients have no food or water but again are assisted. That's not euthanasia either. Nor is the combination of a large number of painkillers over a couple of days. Lots of variations on a theme.

Hmm. Try this. As well, some commentary in this CBC report.
Posts: 6171 | From: Ottawa, Canada | Registered: Oct 2001  |  IP: Logged
SvitlanaV2
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# 16967

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quote:
Originally posted by Palimpsest:
There are probably many reactions to the question. On the other hand, My understanding is that there is usually clergy present in those places that still have state executions. What makes the difference?

The interesting question is whether countries that have state executions have also made assisted death/euthanasia legal. Or at least whether the former has created more cultural tolerance for the latter.
Posts: 6473 | From: UK | Registered: Feb 2012  |  IP: Logged
St. Gwladys
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# 14504

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Tortuf, I can empathise with you.
My father had cancer, and in the last few hours of his life, although he was unconscious, he was obviously in pain.
We rang the doctor who came to the house. He told us that he could give Dad more painkillers, but it would hasten death.
Was this euthanasia/assisted death? All I know is that it eased Dad's pain in his final hours.

Posts: 3286 | From: Rhymney Valley, South Wales | Registered: Jan 2009  |  IP: Logged
Gee D
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# 13815

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Thank you Augustine, there's a lot there and beyond the sort of time I have on the train this morning. A very quick glance though does not show up the difference between physician-caused death by positive action, and a death from natural causes when life support is removed. Sometimes that will be a fine line. An even finer one is often that implicit in the circumstances covered in St Gwladys's post. Painkillers are medically beneficial, but an overdose will be fatal. Perhaps the accumulation of numerous doses, each on its own perfectly safe, will cause death. Does continuation past that point count as euthanasia or not? Fr Frank Brennan SJ here would say that it does not as long as the intention is to relieve pain even knowing that death will be hastened, but not not to cause it.

[ 17. October 2017, 20:11: Message edited by: Gee D ]

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Not every Anglican in Sydney is Sydney Anglican

Posts: 6774 | From: Warrawee NSW Australia | Registered: Jun 2008  |  IP: Logged


 
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