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Posted on 01/22/2020 21:31 PM (CNA Daily News - Americas)
Mexico City, Mexico, Jan 22, 2020 / 01:31 pm (CNA).- Pro-life advocates in Mexico are speaking out against a leaked draft copy of Mexico’s revised National Criminal Code, which would legalize abortion throughout the country at all stages of pregnancy.
The draft copy, which was leaked to the press in recent days, is expected to be presented to Mexico’s federal congress in the coming weeks. The new criminal code is one of 14 reforms announced recently by President Andrés Manuel López Obrador.
The document omits the entire section of the current code that criminalizes abortion and establishes the penalties for the practitioner and pregnant woman involved.
The current Federal Criminal Code imposes penalties ranging from one to three years in prison for anyone performing an abortion, although the penalty can be to eight years in prison “if physical or moral violence is involved.” A doctor or midwife who performs an abortion can also lose their medical license from two to five years.
A mother who consents to an abortion, or voluntarily induces an abortion, incurs a maximum penalty of one year in prison, except in cases of rape or when the mother’s life is at risk.
Rodrigo Iván Cortés, president of the National Front for the Family, explained that the creation of the National Criminal Code would eliminate all local criminal codes throughout the country.
As a result, abortion would be eliminated as a category of crime, “which would make this procedure non-punishable throughout the republic and at all stages,” Cortés told ACI Prensa, CNA's Spanish language partner agency.
“This is extremely worrisome. This would go against more than 20 state constitutions in the republic. And this would be an atrocious attack on human life, the fundamental right to exist,” he warned.
López Obrador, who took office in December 2018, did not campaign on the issues of abortion and gender ideology. However, members of his National Regeneration Movement (Morena) political party who were appointed to key positions in his administration have been swift to make moves in that direction.
The Archdiocese of Xalapa in the state of Veracruz called the draft code “murderous.”
Fr. José Manuel Suazo Reyes, communications director for the archdiocese, warned that “now with the stroke of a pen they seek to do an end run around the sovereignty of the states in the republic in order to impose the culture of death.”
“The National Criminal Code seeks to legalize the murder of innocent and defenseless human beings in all the states of the republic,” he said in a Jan. 19 statement on the archdiocese website. “It seeks to impose an anti-life policy throughout the entire Mexican territory, bypassing the sovereignty of the states and trampling the local constitutions that have protected human life from conception.”
In November 2009, the Veracruz state legislature enshrined the right to life from conception to natural death in the state constitution, although state law still permits abortion in the cases of rape, risk to the life of the mother and congenital deformities.
In July 2018, a federal judge ordered the state legislature to amend its criminal code to allow abortion. The state appealed the decision, which is now pending in the Supreme Court.
Fr. Suazo stressed that “in the Catholic Church we will always be promoters and defenders of respect for human life.”
“[T]hat's part of our doctrine, the defense of every human life, this is our conviction…” he said. “For all of this, we reject this murderous proposal that would legalize abortion throughout Mexican territory.”
Posted on 01/22/2020 19:00 PM (CNA Daily News - Americas)
Vancouver, Canada, Jan 22, 2020 / 11:00 am (CNA).- A Canadian hospice is at risk of losing its government funding over its refusal to euthanize patients who request an “assisted death.”
Fraser Health Authority, a publicly-funded organization responsible for administering healthcare for 1.6 million people in the western Canadian province of British Columbia, is ordering the Irene Thomas Hospice, a 10-bed hospice facility, to offer euthanasia to its patients.
The hospice is operated by the non-profit organization the Delta Hospice Society, which is opposed to Canada’s “Medical Assistance in Dying” (“MAiD”) laws.
In September 2016, about three months after euthanasia became legal in Canada, Fraser Health introduced a new policy which required all hospices receiving more than 50% of provincial funding for their beds to offer euthanasia to their residents. The hospice receives $1.4 million of its $3 million operating budget from the Fraser Health Authority, and Fraser Health funds all 10 of the beds at Irene Thomas Hospice.
Faith-based healthcare organizations, as well as medical professionals opposed to MAiD, are not required to euthanize patients in Canada. Doctors, however, must refer patients seeking an “assisted death” to a healthcare provider who is willing to euthanize them. The Delta Hospice Society is not affiliated with a religion, but is opposed to euthanasia as a matter of principle.
Euthanasia is readily available at Delta Hospital, which is a one-minute drive or four-minute walk away from the Irene Thomas Hospice.
Dr. Leonie Herx, a palliative physician and the president of the Canadian Society of Palliative Care Physicians, told CNA that less than 30% of Canadians have access to palliative care.
Unlike other healthcare services, including MAiD, which are fully funded and accessible to all by the Canada Health Act, disability care, palliative care, and homecare services are not guaranteed or accessible everywhere.
“So while MAiD needs to be funded provincially and accessible to all Canadians, the same does not apply to palliative care,” said Herx.
“The rights of individuals to autonomy and their 'right to die' therefore seems to trump the right to assistance in living,” she added.
Herx said that presently, palliative care organizations throughout Canada are pushing for more funding for palliative care, to better assist patients in need.
“MAiD was legalized before we had broad uptake of and access to palliative care,” she said.
“The government missed an opportunity when crafting the Canadian MAiD legislation and could have made these important safeguards of 'care' (which we know mitigates desire for hastened death in many cases) also part of the Canada Health Act.”
In Canada, unlike assisted suicide laws in the United States, those who opt for an “assisted death” are not required to self-administer the lethal medication. The vast majority of Canadians who have an “assisted death” do so by euthanasia and do not self-administer.
Herx said that misconceptions about the purpose of palliative care can push people away from pursuing hospice care. The addition of MAiD into hospice settings makes the confusion worse.
“Some patients are already afraid that palliative care will shorten their life and these worries can be intensified when MAiD is provided in that same palliative care centre,” she said. Considering that less than 2% of deaths in Canada each year are from MAiD, the “vast majority” of the remaining, “natural” deaths could serve to benefit from palliative care.
The number of Canadians who chose MAiD during the first 10 months of 2018--2,613 people--is four times the total number of homicides in Canada in 2018. That year, 651 people were the victims of homicide.
Herx told CNA that “the healthcare authority in British Columbia is not recognizing the unique approach to care that is at the core of hospice palliative care.”
Speeding up death, she said, is never the aim of palliative care. Herx said there was “no reason” to mandate that hospices perform euthanasia, as it is already widely available at hospitals and in patient homes.
Herx pointed to “strong lobbies” which are backing this new effort to expand MAiD into additional institutions which receive provincial funding, including faith-based hospitals or hospices. She warned that the pressure on all such institutions to offer assisted dying would continue.
“This current case in Delta Hospice may set the precedent for other non-religious hospices,” said Herx.
“But then, faith-based institutions may be next.”
Posted on 01/22/2020 08:40 AM (CNA Daily News - Americas)
Tapachula, Mexico, Jan 22, 2020 / 12:40 am (CNA).- The bishop of the southern Mexican border town of Tapachula is calling for members of an incoming migrant caravan to be “treated as brothers” and welcomed by the faithful.
“We don’t know if the brothers that are coming in the caravan will be able to cross the border, reach Tapachula or even continue beyond our state of Chiapas, crossing our diocesan territory” said Bishop Jaime Calderón.
However, he said, it is the job of the faithful “to ensure that whether they’re passing through, or in a temporary or permanent stay in our diocesan territory, that the migrant brothers don’t incur more suffering than that which inherently accompanies a long, arduous, rugged, unsafe and violent journey.”
A migrant caravan left San Pedro Sulas in Honduras last week. According to media reports, the caravan consists of about 1,000 people hoping to make it to the United States.
After a 2018 caravan of thousands of Central American migrants crossed through Mexico and arrived at the southern U.S. border, the Trump administration put pressure on the Mexican government to stem the flow of migrants, threatening tariffs if they did not. Mexico then deployed thousands of National Guard troops to their southern border to reduce the passage of migrants.
In addition, the Trump administration last year introduced a new “Remain in Mexico” policy that requires asylum seekers - mainly families with children - to remain in border towns while their cases are processed by immigration courts, a procedure that may take years.
Nevertheless, many migrants from Central America – particularly Honduras, El Salvador and Guatemala – continue seeking safety in the United States, as they flee nations marked by poverty and some of the highest rates of violence in the world.
At a Jan. 17 press conference, Mexican President Andrés Manuel López Obrador said that some 3,000 Central American migrants are currently seeking to enter Mexico at different points along its southern border.
According to the Mexican website Animal Político, Mexico’s Secretary of the Interior, Olga Sánchez Cordero, warned that “in no way do we have transit visas or even safe conduct passes” for the migrants.
Mexico, said Sánchez Cordero, “is not a country that gives safe conduct passes, it’s a country that opens its doors to people who want to enter and migrate to our country.”
However, she said that if the members of the caravan “wish to have some kind of immigration, refugee or asylum status [in Mexico], we will gladly attend to them.”
President López Obrador said there are more than 4,000 jobs available at the southern border, along with shelters and medical care.
Animal Político reported that Mexico’s National Migration Institute has received just over 1,000 migrants so far, and is reviewing their cases on an individual basis to see what opportunities they are eligible for, based on their specific conditions. The majority of applicants are expected to be sent back to their country of origin.
Bishop Calderón stressed that the Church takes the position “of the Good Samaritan that comes to the aid of those who have been beaten down by the violence of life and suffer the hardships of the journey in the effort to find better living conditions for themselves and their families.”
He asked Catholic individuals and parishes in his diocese “to ensure that these brother migrants are not lacking bread, that they’re not violated or assaulted on their passage through our diocese, that they don’t receive signs of rejection or contempt.”
The migrants should be welcomed, he said, so that they feel, “despite such adverse circumstances, that they travel among brothers and as brothers, not as strangers, nor adventurers, nor criminals, nor exiles, nor despised people.”
“God will reward the effort each person makes to see them, feel for them and treat them as brothers,” the bishop said. “In the same way we would like our undocumented countrymen to be treated in the United States.”
Posted on 01/17/2020 03:00 AM (CNA Daily News - Americas)
Santiago, Chile, Jan 16, 2020 / 07:00 pm (CNA).- During the Jan. 11 installation Mass of Celestino Aós as the new archbishop of Santiago, Chile, a small number of protesters opened backpacks near the front of the church and dumped tear gas canisters on the floor.
An Instagram post by portadasoñada, which describes itself as “an independent and self-managed media outlet” included a video of the incident, which it said was intended to "denounce in the face the highest Catholic authority in the country for his silence and complicity with the government."
The United Nations has warned of evidence of numerous human rights violations committed by police and military personnel in Chile since October. These include excessive and unnecessary use of force, sometimes resulting in injury or death, as well as torture, rape, and arbitrary detention.
Demonstrations against the government began in mid-October in Santiago over a now-suspended increase in subway fares. Other regions joined in the protests, expanding their grievances to inequality and the cost of healthcare.
Several churches across Chile have been attacked, looted and even burned amid anti-government protests in the country.
The La Tercera newspaper in Chile reported that the rector of the Pontifical Catholic University of Chile, Ignacio Sánchez, was present at the installation Mass of Archbishop Aós.
“I saw a person spill out some jars on the ground that looked like they were tear gas canisters,” Sánchez said, adding, “it is lamentable that people don't know that the freedom we have inside the church requires respect, requires basic, decent and ethical behavior.”
On Jan. 12, Kairos News published a letter from the coordinating committee of the Peace through Justice lay group in Valparaiso to their counterpart in Santiago which referenced the canister incident and citied the prophet Jeremiah, making a “fraternal appeal” to the bishops to speak up on “the grave violations of human rights occurring in our country.”
The bishops have, on several occasions, called on the security forces to respect human rights. In an Oct. 24, 2019 statement, shortly after the initial violence broke out, they stated, “United in the sorrow of the relatives of those who have lost their lives and of so many who have been injured, we call on all the people who are demonstrating and the competent agencies and authorities to ensure respect for fundamental rights and proper treatment of those detained.”
In a Nov. 8 statement, Aós – who was then serving as apostolic administrator of Santiago – said, “Let us not try to justify any violence, violence is always bad, it leads to more violence.” He also called for a new “Social Pact” and for structural, personal and constitutional changes to help remedy the crisis.
In his Jan. 11 homily, Archbishop Aós said that “we're going through days of agitation, division and attacks,” and warned that “division, injustice, lies, and violence are contrary to our Christian condition, our baptismal commitment.”
“No Christian can remain an onlooker. Much less a censor or a condemner; we all must ask ourselves, what is the will of God for me? Or the more familiar phrase, what would Christ do in my place?” he said.
Posted on 01/16/2020 12:00 PM (CNA Daily News - Americas)
Ponce, Puerto Rico, Jan 16, 2020 / 04:00 am (CNA).- Precariously resting on the edge of an altar leaning forward from the impact of the earthquake that struck Puerto Rico, a tabernacle was retrieved intact from a church in Puerto Rico and brought to safety.
In the early hours of Jan. 7, a 6.4 magnitude earthquake struck the island, the last of a series of quakes that began Dec. 28. The earthquake left one dead, various people injured, serious damage to the infrastructure, and a power outage on the island. A state of emergency was declared.
Previo a otros temblores durante la mañana, fieles rescatan el Sagrario junto al párroco. Esto en la Parroquia Inmaculada Con emoción de Guayanilla que quedó destruida tras el fuerte temblor registrado en el sur de Puerto Rico esta madrugada. pic.twitter.com/lyWPYnWgpS
— El Visitante PR (@elvisitantepr) January 7, 2020
Local Catholic media El Visitante, who had journalists on site, explained to ACI Prensa, CNA's Spanish-language news partner, that the tabernacle was rescued from Immaculate Conception church in Guayanilla which completely collapsed from aftershocks. The town lies 8 miles west of Ponce, the epicenter of the earthquake.
El Visitante said the rescue of the tabernacle, and the Eucharist within it, took place at dawn, minutes before an aftershock left the church in ruins. “As if the tremor was waiting for the Eucharist to leave in order to continue the destruction.”
Templo de la Parroquia Inmaculada Concepción de Guayanilla se destruyó a causa del fuerte temblor registrado esta madrugada. Favor mantener la calma, orar y prepararse los 365 días. pic.twitter.com/ni9WqiV61w
— El Visitante PR (@elvisitantepr) January 7, 2020
The tabernacle was in a chapel “in the left nave of the church. The early morning tremor destroyed the chapel, making the altar tilt forward. The tabernacle didn't fall to the ground. It was almost suspended in the air lightly held up on the leaning altar.”
The tabernacle was rescued by the pastor Fr. Melvin Díaz and Fr. Orlando Rivera along with the faithful. Rivera used to work at the church but now lives in Peñuelas, a town near Guayanilla.
El Visitante of Puerto Rico said the hosts “had spilled inside the tabernacle” but were gathered up by Fr. Rivera while Fr. Melvin retrieved “the large Host used for exposition of the Blessed Sacrament.”
“The faithful took the tabernacle and went out in procession over the rubble. The faithful with the tabernacle, Fr. Orlando with the ciborium and Fr. Melvin with the large Sacred Host. They went to the rectory a few steps from the parish to protect the Blessed Sacrament with all the dignity it deserves,”
“They were the heroes of the Eucharist,” El Visitante concluded.
A version of this story was first published by ACI Prensa, CNA's Spanish-language news partner. It has been translated and adapted by CNA.
Posted on 01/16/2020 02:02 AM (CNA Daily News - Americas)
Mexico City, Mexico, Jan 15, 2020 / 06:02 pm (CNA).- The bishops’ conference of Mexico has called on the country’s government to get rid of the statute of limitations in cases of sexual abuse of minors.
“We want to ask in the name of the bishops of Mexico for there to be no expiration for this crime,” Archbishop Rogelio Cabrera, president of the Mexican Bishops’ Conference, said at a Tuesday press conference, according to the AP.
He added that the statute of limitations must be eliminated for cases of abuse of minors “since the wrong done lasts for the lifetime of the person who has been a victim.”
The bishops said at the press conference that 271 priests have been investigated in the past decade for sexual abuse, and 155 of those cases have been brought to civil authorities, the AP reported. Last February, Cabrera said that 152 priests had been removed from ministry due to incidents of abuse.
Current law in Mexico sets the statute of limitations for cases of sexual abuse against a minor at 10 years after the incident. Rogelio said the Church in Mexico accepts accusations of abuse up to 20 years after the victim becomes an adult.
The request from the bishops comes after a report released by the Mexican religious order Legionaries of Christ stated that since the group’s founding in 1941, 33 priests of the Legionaries of Christ committed sexual abuse of minors, victimizing 175 children.
On Jan. 13, the order announced that one of its priests, Fernando Martínez Suárez, was dismissed from the clerical state after being found guilty of the sexual abuse of minors by the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith.
Last month, the Apostolic Nuncio in Mexico, Archbishop Franco Coppola, gave out his personal email address and said that he would try to help anyone who contacted him about an incident of clergy sex abuse.
Posted on 01/16/2020 00:51 AM (CNA Daily News - Americas)
Buenos Aires, Argentina, Jan 15, 2020 / 04:51 pm (CNA).- Amid a continuing economic crisis in Argentina, the Catholic relief agency Caritas is working to provide food for thousands of families struggling to access adequate nutrition.
Bishop Carlos Tissera, president of Caritas Argentina, said the agency hopes to bring hope amid the suffering experienced by so many people in the country.
“Our model is Christ who came to serve with simplicity and humility,” he said.
For the past two years, Argentina has faced a deep recession, with inflation rates topping 53% last year. A recent report from the Argentina Observatory of Social Debt at the Pontifical Catholic University of Argentina found the rate of poverty at decade-high levels, with 40% of the population below the poverty line in the last trimester of 2019.
Last year, the Argentine Bishops' Commission for Social Ministry warned that the situation had reached a crisis level.
“In face of the severe increase in destitution, poverty, unemployment and the indiscriminate increase in the price of the basic food groups, we find ourselves in an emergency food and nutrition situation which essentially affects the most vulnerable, especially children,” the commission said.
Caritas Argentina has worked to alleviate the difficult conditions facing many families in the country. Between May and December 2019, the agency collected about $27,000, which was allocated to care for 755 children and 2,358 families at soup kitchens and other facilities in eight different dioceses.
From Sept. 27-Oct. 18 last year, Caritas distributed 810 tons of food, valued at $128.8 million and provided by the Ministry of Health and Social Development.
“The logistical deployment which this aid work requires stretched us to the max,” said Sofia Terek, the coordinator of Caritas' Immediate Aid and Emergencies Department. She added that “despite our volunteers' efforts, we still see a high percentage of people in poverty.”
“We think this is due to the fact that every day there are more people needing basic nutrition: the price hikes and the lack of work is making access harder for the growing vulnerable population,” she said.
Posted on 01/10/2020 01:19 AM (CNA Daily News - Americas)
Caracas, Venezuela, Jan 9, 2020 / 05:19 pm (CNA).- The presidency of the Venezuelan bishops' conference warned Wednesday that the disputed election of Luis Parra as president of the National Assembly is "contrary to all constitutional legality."
Parra was elected head of Venezuela's de jure legislature Jan. 5 by pro-government lawmakers, while opposition legislators were blocked from entering the chamber. It is the latest in a crisis over the government of Venezuela.
Under the socialist administration of Nicolas Maduro, Venezuela has been marred by violence and social upheaval, with severe shortages of food and medicine, high unemployment, blackouts, and hyperinflation. Some 4.5 million Venezuelans have emigrated since 2015.
The Venezuelan bishops' presidency said Jan. 8 that Parra's election was "a shameful event" that "has replanted in the souls of Venezuelans reasons for hopelessness and a greater sense of helplessness."
Opposition leader Juan Guaidó and 100 other opposition legislators were blocked Jan. 5 by Venezuelan National Guard troops from attending a vote in the legislature, where Guaidó was standing for re-election as its leader. Parra was elected instead, without a quorum, by pro-government lawmakers and some opposition politicians. Parra had been expelled last month from the Justice First party over alleged corruption.
Telesur, a state television network in Venezuela, said Parra was elected with 140 votes. The National Assembly has 167 seats.
Guaidó had declared himself interim president of Venezuela in January 2019, after president Nicolas Maduro was sworn in for a second term, having won a contested election in which oppositon candidates were barred from running or imprisoned. Guaidó and the Venezuelan bishops held Maduro's second term to be invalid, and the presidency vacant.
He said that according to the Venezuelan constitution, when the presidency falls vacant, power is assumed by the president of the National Assembly.
On Jan. 5, Guaidó and opposition legislators held their session of the National Assembly at the headquarters of El Nacional, a Caracas daily. At that session, Guaidó was re-elected president of the legislature by about 100 lawmakers.
Then on Jan. 7, Guaidó and 100 of his fellow opposition lawmakers accessed the National Assembly only after a half-hour stand-off with National Guardsmen who had cordoned the building. Pro-government legislators left when the opposition entered, and power to the building was cut.
Venezuela's bishops said that the events of Jan. 7 were "a new abuse of power ... which implies a hijacking of more than one democratic institution."
They indicated that the recent events are "a new manifestation of the totalitarian ideology of those who hold political power. They have promoted and protected the non-recognition of the lack of autonomy of the legitimate National Assembly; and, at the same time, they intend to recognize leadership invalidly elected against all constitutional legality ”.
The bishops urged members of the armed forces to place themselves “on the true side of the Constitution and of the people to which they belong and swore to defend."
Archbishop José Luis Azuaje Ayala of Maracaibo, president of the Venezuelan bishops' conference, said Jan. 7 that Parra's election as speaker was an “invalid appointment” which pro-government lawmakers had done by “violating all norms of the assembly.”
Archbishop Azuaje's statement was read at the opening of the Venezuelan bishops' plenary assembly.
He said that because Parra's National Assembly presidency is invalid, “it will be the responsibility of the true leadership elected by vote and according the norms of the National Assembly, to continue to examine deeply how to resolve the main problems afflicting the people.”
Archbishop Azuaje asked citizens to be aware because what is behind the crisis the country is undergoing is “power, as it is conceived and put into practice. Today, power as dominion is gaining ground against the truth.”
He called for “a new history based on the common good and on freedom.”
The opposition gained control of the National Assembly in a December 2016 election, and in 2017 Maduro formed a pro-government legislature, the Constituent Assembly, to supersede it. The Venezuelan bishops do not recognize the Constituent Assembly as legitimate or valid.
In 2018, Venezuela's annual inflation rate was 1.3 million percent; late in 2019, the IMF forecast an inflation rate of 10 million percent for that year.
Posted on 01/8/2020 22:46 PM (CNA Daily News - Americas)
Tlaxcala, Mexico, Jan 8, 2020 / 02:46 pm (CNA).- A Mexican priest who had been kidnapped is in the hospital in serious condition after having been discovered released on the side of a highway with four gunshot wounds.
Fr. Roly Candelario Piña Camacho, a Piarist priest from the Diocese of Tlaxcala, was found wounded on the side of the México-Puebla federal highway Jan. 6, the diocese said.
Local media reports did not specify when the priest was kidnapped, but said his family members paid the unspecified ransom request to his captors. He had suffered four gunshot wounds and was transported to a local hospital, where the National Guard is offering protection against further violence, according to reports.
In a Jan. 7 statement, the Diocese of Tlaxcala said that the priest is “in serious condition.”
“The Diocese of Tlaxcala expresses its solidarity and spiritual closeness to Father Roly, the Piarist community and his family. We pray for an end to the violence and for human life to be respected,” the statement says.
The Mexican bishops called for prayers for the priest’s recovery.
“We join in prayer for the swift recovery of Fr. Roly Candelario Sch.p (Piarist) and deeply deplore the violent situation the country is going through,” the bishops’ conference said on Facebook.
More than two dozen priests have been murdered in Mexico in the past decade, according to the Catholic Multimedia Center, which tracks violence in Mexico.
Posted on 01/7/2020 18:00 PM (CNA Daily News - Americas)
Ottawa, Canada, Jan 7, 2020 / 10:00 am (CNA).- Increasing numbers of people killed by euthanasia are supplying a “boon” for organ transplant surgeries in Canada, according to an Ottawa newspaper. But politicians and ethicists told CNA the practice was “rather horrifying” and raises questions of “coercion.”
A Jan. 6 article titled “Medically assisted deaths prove a growing boon to organ donation in Ontario” in the Ottawa Citizen, explained that while the number of people in need of a transplant in Ontario has remained relatively static, fewer and fewer people are registering in advance as donors, with assisted deaths providing a positive answer.
“This relatively new source of organs and tissues is significant in that Ontario’s waiting list for organs typically hovers around 1,600 without any great headway made to eliminate that number,” Bruce Deachman reported.
From January until November of 2019, there were 18 organ and 95 tissue donations from patients who died by euthanasia. These numbers, which do not include the month of December, represent an increase of 14% over all of 2018, and 109% compared to all of 2017.
According to the Trillium Gift of Life Network, which runs organ and tissue donation in the province of Ontario, these donations were 5% of the province’s overall number of organ and tissue donations. This was more than double the percentage of euthanasia-related donations in 2017.
“Medical assistance in dying,” as it is legally referred to in the country, has been legal in Canada since 2016. Canadians who have a “grievous and irremediable medical condition” are able to elect to end their lives. This is defined as a “serious and incurable illness, disease or disability” that results in “an advanced state of irreversible decline in capability,” and causes “enduring physical or psychological suffering that is intolerable” and cannot be treated in an “acceptable” manner.
A person’s death has to become “reasonably foreseeable” in order to be approved for euthanasia, but their condition does not necessarily have to be considered terminal.
In Ontario, Trillium “proactively” solicits patients to discuss organ donation once they have elected to be killed. It is provincial law that Trillium be made aware once a person has been approved to end their life.
Ronnie Gavsie, the CEO of Trillium, defended this as “the right thing to do for those on the [organ donation] wait list.”
“And, as part of high-quality end-of life care, we make sure that all patients and families are provided with the information they need and the opportunity to make a decision on whether they wish to make a donation,” Gavsie told the Ottawa Citizen. “That just follows the logical protocol under the law and the humane approach for those who are undergoing medical assistance in dying.”
In Quebec, it recently was approved for Transplant Quebec to raise the possibility of organ donation after a person’s request to die by euthanasia is approved by doctors.
Conservative MP Michael Cooper told CNA that while he is not necessarily opposed to someone donating their organs after dying by euthanasia, he said the practice raises questions regarding consent, and opens up the possibility of coercion.
“The concern that I have is that it muddies the waters in terms of the patient making a decision freely, without any degree of coercion or influence from anyone,” said Cooper. He added that with the current setup of physician-assisted death in Canada, there is a chance that it is administered to a patient who is not able to properly consent or who may not want to die.
Organ donation “should not be part of the conversation” when a patient makes a decision regarding physician-assisted dying, said Cooper, and that he feels as though the decision to donate one's organs should be “completely separate” from the decision to pursue euthanasia.
Dr. Moira McQueen, a moral theologian and the executive director of the Canadian Catholic Bioethics Institute, told CNA said such practices appear “rather horrifying.”
McQueen cited the scenario of a patient who opts to begin the euthasia process at home and be transferred to a hospital for organ donation as one that sparks “even more ethical and legal problems.” In this case, a patient would essentially be sedated at home and then transported to a hospital for the final dose of lethal medication and then have their organs removed.
“That situation makes it clearer that the focus is truly on 'harvesting',” said McQueen. “The donor's dignity is compromised and the 'separation' of teams that is supposed to be the warrant of independence of the teams is completely blurred.”
While the Church does not have ethical issues with the use of organ donations from consenting donors who died natural deaths, or from unconscious donors whose relatives have elected to donate their organs, McQueen said there are serious ethical questions about the transplant use of organs retrieved after euthanasia.
“There’s no Church teaching on it that says specifically, you can’t. There is definitely something that talks about the dignity of the body, and I would think, as a Catholic, most of us would say ‘oh no, you can’t use these organs because the person has died a sinful death, died a wrong death by asking for euthanasia,” she said.
The ethical questions regarding this situation have not been resolved, she explained, and that she could see both sides of the issue. McQueen told CNA that she feels the conversations regarding organ donation and euthanasia need to be completely separate. If this were the case, following the death of the patient, the organs could be considered “neutral.”
“I think there could be a possibility that [the organs] could be used, despite the fact now that we are talking about people who have asked for euthanasia,” she said, but could only be considered if the medical team administering euthanasia was entirely and wholly separate from the medical team that handled the organ retreival.
“I think the Church will eventually deal with all these implications, but right now everyone is watching these events unfold and it's tricky to separate what's morally wrong,” she said.
Given that a person who is approved for euthanasia may not be terminally ill, McQueen said it is not out of the realm of possibility that a primary physician “might well suggest organ donation as, if not an incentive, a kind of 'consolation' for the person's own loss of life.”
“These scenarios are all too real, and many people will be all too willing to 'justify' their decisions by turning something which even to them cannot be an unqualified good into something quite noble,” she said.