Tuesday, January 24, 2017

Charles Lewis: Join us in opposing euthanasia and assisted suicide.

By Charles Lewis, EPC board member.

Last June, I was invited to speak to a Catholic parish north of Toronto. It was my 56th talk though this one turned out to be different. First off, it was the largest crowd I had spoken to – close to 400 showed up. It was heartening but also bitter sweet.

The day before my talk, Parliament did what I always hoped would never happen in this country: it made euthanasia legal. I felt a combination of anger and nausea.

Then I realized that I had to suddenly come up with a new talk. The law was now a reality but up until that point I never thought of what I would say once euthanasia became a reality.

Every talk prior that summer morning had been intended to push the government to delay making euthanasia legal through the notwithstanding clause – a constitutional safety valve to delay controversial Supreme Court of Canada decisions.

So I told the crowd that we were in new territory -- that from here on in we would have to realize that no political party was going to save us. We were on our own and that would be the reality we would have to deal with. I also said that no matter how safe the pro-death side claimed the law to be it would be loosely interpreted and eventually formerly expanded. I spoke about the lack of good palliative care in Canada and the need to keep lobbying for more.

After that talk I decided to take a break. There was something about speaking about euthanasia day after day that effected my soul. I also wanted to deal with personal health issues and to start to think seriously about what I would say now. Most of us who do this work are learning as we go.

I continued to write about the issue and when anyone would ask me about my opposition I would gladly explain it; and when someone asked me whether I thought the battle lost I would say no.

Then a few months ago I realized it was time to jump back into the fight. I wanted to make sure I learned from the past few years in order to make these life-saving talks more effective and to reach the maximum number of people.

So I created a group of eight people utterly committed to the cause of warning people of the dangers of euthanasia. I say “I” created the group but we are all equal partners in this. Some, like Moira McQueen, the director of the Canadian Catholic Bioethics Institute have been doing this long before I came on the scene.

Anyone who wants a speaker in the greater Toronto area should email Charles Lewis at: charleslewis@rogers.com"

We had our first meeting in early January. The only qualifications for joining were an absolute opposition to euthanasia and a desire to help people opt for life instead of suicide. While speaking is important there was the other main duty of letting everyone each of us knows that there are now speakers available and arranging an event is easy.

You can also join the Euthanasia Prevention Coalition.

Since I am semi-retired and have the greatest free time of others in the group I became the hub. Each person in the group lets me know when they are speaking and I in turn let the others know. This means we are all not lobbying the same parishes and groups. It also means we can attend the talks of others. I am convinced this is important because each person brings something new to the anti-euthanasia argument. And none of us should be above using effective arguments that we had not thought of before.

I am in charge of gathering literature and delivering it to others to distribute at their talks.

The group is already bearing fruit. Ephraim Radner, a professor at Wycliffe College and a group member, has already organized a seminar for students and St. Augustine students on the afternoon of Feb. 8 at Wycliffe.

We are also helping Alex Schadenberg set up an evening at St. Michael’s College, at the University of Toronto campus, at which the film The Euthanasia Deception will be shown followed by a panel discussion. The date is to be announced.

In terms of arguments we are making that still is up to the individual and for some of us a work in progress.


Last week I gave my first talk since last June. I gave my audience a brief background about how we go here. I then talked about how the law as written is not safe but open to interpretation and that from June to the end of the year 784 Canadians have died via the needle or some poison cocktail. I also noted that in December Health Canada struck a committee to look at expanding the law to include teenagers and those suffering from mental illness.

Finally I gave some ideas of what each person needs to do. Since I was speaking at a Catholic parish I suggested that a point person, or two be in charge of finding out whom in their faith community was struggling with severe illness. Then to ensure those people, especially those suffering alone, received visits and help with such things as meals, picking up drugs at the pharmacy and medical visits.

I’m of the belief that someone who feels loved and taken care of is less likely to take the euthanasia route.

I also said it was time that everyone begin to understand the dangers of euthanasia. And that it was important to fully understand the position of the pro-euthanasia side in order to more effectively respond.

I hope other communities will follow our model. It is never going to be enough but as the Jewish Talmud declares so wisely:
“Whoever destroys a soul, it is considered as if he destroyed an entire world. And whoever saves a life, it is considered as if he saved an entire world.”
Charles Lewis is a Toronto speaker and writer. His columns appear twice a month in the Catholic Register.

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