Euthanasia and Assisted Suicide FAQ

"Mindful of the inherent dignity of each person, it is time for families across the country to have a difficult but necessary conversation about the reality of death. We need to understand the destructive implications of these legal changes, and offer truly loving and merciful alternatives."

~ Cardinal Thomas Collins, Spokesperson for Canadian Conference of Catholic Bishops

~ Download FAQ sheet


§ What is euthanasia?
§ What is assisted suicide?
§ What is happening now?
§ What does the Catholic Church teach?
§ Why should we take action?
§ What have we done in the Diocese of Victoria to take action?
§ What can I do to help?
§ Is there a sample letter I can use?
§ To whom should I send my letter?


What is euthanasia?

Euthanasia - the intentional killing of someone, with or without consent, either by act or omission. The person who commits euthanasia must intend, for whatever reason, to kill the other and must cause his or her death. There is a great difference between "allowing to die" and "making die." 
(For example: When treatment is withdrawn or withheld, the cause of death is the underlying disease or condition. In euthanasia, the cause of death is the lethal injection, pill or other means used.) 

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What is assisted suicide? 

Assisted suicide - when a person kills himself/herself with the help of another person, who provides the means to carry out the act. 

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What is happening now? 

On February 6, 2015, the Supreme Court of Canada unanimously overturned a legal ban on doctor-assisted suicide. The court ruled that the law should be amended to provide assisted death in specific situations. The Government of Canada is now drafting legislation that is expected to be in place by June 2016. 

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What does the Catholic Church teach? 

The Catholic Church teaches that life is a precious gift, to be cherished from the moment of conception to natural death. Catholic teaching clearly states that it is permissible to refuse burdensome and disproportionate treatment that prolongs the inevitable process of dying. However, dying is simply not the same as being killed. 

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Why should we take action? 

Legalizing euthanasia/assisted suicide in Canada is a threat to the vulnerable -people with disabilities, the elderly, the very sick, the dying. 

If adopted, the current parliamentary recommendations will: 

  • Provide access, by 2019, to assisted suicide for minors (under 18)
  • Allow people suffering from depression or mental health issues to access assisted suicide
  • Permit people with illnesses, such as dementia, the ability to pre-schedule their deaths

The legalization of euthanasia/assisted suicide in Canada is a threat to those who care for the sick.

Recommendations would lead to legislation that could:

  • Force health care workers who want to save lives to act against their conscience
  • Require all faith-based hospitals, long-term care facilities and hospices to provide assisted suicide
  • Force doctors who refuse to kill a patient to ensure that someone else does it—no country in the world currently requires such a violation of conscience

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What have we done in the Diocese of Victoria to take action?

In the Diocese of Victoria, we have undertaken four action strategies against Assisted Suicide:

  1. On February 10, 2016, we provided the link for on line signature of the Euthanasia Declaration protesting the Assisted Suicide and Euthanasia law;
  2. On February 24, 2016, we asked parishioners to sign a postcard campaign addressed to the Federal Minister of Health (Minister Wilson-Raybould) asking for protection of conscience rights for individuals and institutions;
  3. On March 9, 2016, we asked parishes and our Island Catholic Schools to help us provide a widespread and urgent distribution of the Statement of Thomas Cardinal Collins concerning Euthanasia/Assisted Suicide, encouraging people to write to their MLA and MP;   
  4. On the weekend of April 3, 2016, we asked parishioners to use a sample letter to write to their MLA, asking for protection of conscience rights for insitutions, physicians and health care workers.

We are grateful for the assistance of our staff, parishioners, family and friends in sending a strong, cohesive message to Ottawa and Victoria, asking our government to safeguard conscience rights for health care workers and institutions. ‚Äč

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What can I do to help?

Take action today!

  1. Learn more about the issue: Go to www.CanadiansforConscience.ca to find out what the legalization of physician-assisted suicide will mean for the vulnerable and for health care workers.
  2. Discuss the issue with your family and friends: Most people aren't aware of the sweeping scope of what our government is proposing. We need to protect the vulnerable and the people who care for them.
  3. Tell legislators how you feel: Visit www.CanadiansforConscience.ca and use their tools to write to the Minister of Justice, Minister of Health and your local Member of Parliament. You may also send a letter by post or email.

Write a letter

Please tell legislators how you feel about the legalization of doctor-assisted suicide in Canada. Urge your elected representatives:

  1. to protect the vulnerable and
  2. to ensure that individuals and institutions can provide health care without having to compromise their moral convictions.

Click here to access a PDF with text for a sample letter you might use. You may use this as-is, but please feel free to personalize the letter as much as possible. Please address your letter to:

Minister of Justice

The Honourable Jody Wilson-Raybould
Minister of Justice and Attorney General of Canada
248 Wellington Street
Ottawa ON K1A 0H8
Fax: (613) 954-0811
Email: mcu@justice.gc.ca

Minister of Health

The Honourable Jane Philpott
Brooke Claxton Building
Tunney's Pasture
Postal Locator: 0906C
Ottawa ON K1A 0K9
Fax: (613) 941-5366
Email: hon.jane.philpott@canada.ca

Your local Member of Parliament (Ottawa)

Click here to find contact information for your member of parliament using your postal code.

British Columbia Minister of Health

The Honourable Dr. Terry Lake
Minister of Health
Room 337, Parliament Buildings
Victoria BC V8X 1X4
Phone: (250) 953-3547
Fax: (250) 356-9587

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College of Physicians and Surgeons of British Columbia

Dr. Heidi M. Oetter, Registrar
300–669 Howe Street
Vancouver BC  V6C 0B4
Phone: (604) 733-7758
Toll Free 1-800-461-3008
Fax: (604) 733-3503

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Some content courtesy of the Archdiocese of Toronto

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