Director of COLF
MONTREAL, Canada, 21 FEB. 2007 (ZENIT)
The disabled and dying need
true compassion, not premature death, says the director of the Catholic
Organization for Life and Family.
In this interview, Michèle Boulva spoke with ZENIT about the growing
pressure to spread euthanasia in Canada.
Q: For some time now, a movement has emerged in your country in favor of
the legalization of euthanasia and assisted suicide. Is this movement
growing and having a lot of impact on public opinion?
Boulva: These extremely worrying questions have been on the front page
of Canadian news for some 15 years, every time that the media publishes
dramatic cases or that a draft law is being promoted.
It must be said that the aging of the population associated with
improved health care is a perfect recipe for the promotion of euthanasia
and assisted suicide.
The promoters of these practices, unworthy for a civilized society,
state that we should all have the right to choose our way of dying and
the moment of our death. They argue that society does not have the right
to impose added sufferings on us, forcing us to live against our will.
The most serious surveys show, moreover, that the Canadian population is
divided into equal parts on this matter. ... we have to be cautious in
the interpretation of these surveys because there is much confusion
among the population. Some, for example, say they are in favor of
assisted suicide but in reality affirm their rejection of therapeutic
Q: The bishops of Canada have taken a forceful position against this
plan and ceaselessly urge the faithful to do the same. Their pro-life
and pro-family organization has decided on an all-out battle. Can you
make a historical summary of the key moments of the Church's struggle?
Boulva: Beyond its educational and pastoral action relative to the
unconditional respect for life and human dignity, the bishops intervene
publicly every time the news calls for it.
Several cases have caught the attention of the public in Canada in the
course of the years, among others, that of Sue Rodriguez, a 41-year-old
woman affected by amyotrophic lateral sclerosis, also called Lou
Gehrig's disease, who fought from 1991 to 1994 for the right to die.
The judges in the Supreme Court rejected the legalization of euthanasia
and of assisted suicide by a narrow majority
5-4, and Mrs. Rodriguez committed suicide in 1994 with the help of an
In 1993, a farmer of Saskatchewan was sentenced to prison for having
killed his 12-year-old daughter, who was suffering from cerebral
paralysis. Robert Latimer said he acted out of love, unable to endure
his daughter's suffering any longer.
In Quebec in 2004 Marielle Houle helped her son, Charles Fariala, 36,
suffering from multiple sclerosis, to commit suicide. Mrs. Houle also
said she acted out of love. Given her age and state of health, she was
sentenced to three years probation instead of prison.
Moreover, in June 1995 the senate's special Commission on Euthanasia and
Assisted Suicide published a report entitled "Of Life and Death."
This commission never arrived at a consensus on euthanasia or assisted
suicide, but it made unanimous recommendations on palliative care.
Five years later, a senate sub-commission observed that the
implementation of these recommendations was incomplete and made 14 new
recommendations relative to palliative care. Much remains to be done in
this field, though hospitals and centers dedicated to this mission
already do formidable work, which is much appreciated by families.
Q: The reason invoked most often by people who wish to open the door to
the practice of euthanasia and assisted suicide is the desire to
alleviate the person's sufferings. Isn't it strange to hear talk of
these gestures in terms of compassion for the person who is suffering.
What is your response to this?
Boulva: It is an erroneous conception of compassion which sooner or
later threatens citizens, especially the most vulnerable sick and
To pretend to alleviate suffering eliminating the patient is an
aberration. The latter, moreover, who ask for death do not always do so
because of their suffering. For many it is a cry for help against
loneliness, before the sentiment of feeling that they are a burden for
The response to their cry is an attentive presence full of human warmth
and love. They need care, to be heard, the affection of their loved
ones, and of the caring staff to "endure their suffering with dignity."
Insofar as families are concerned, they need the support of the state
and of society to assume their responsibilities toward their sick loved
ones, grown old and dying.
According to the promoters of euthanasia and assisted suicide, a life of
suffering is not worth living and the person's dignity diminishes in the
measure that illness and pain disintegrate the body.
Let us consider for a moment the other side of the coin. Would it not be
possible for a life bound to suffering to still be worth living? What if
it is an invitation to moral and spiritual growth? What if human dignity
persists despite the illness that undermines the body?
What if it is the simple fact of being a human being and of having been
created in the image of God which assures our dignity, and not our
autonomy, our health or our social usefulness? What if the people who
are suffering are calling us to human solidarity?
What the sick, the dying, and disabled need is not a premature death but
more care and more love
true compassion. ZE07022122
Director of COLF
MONTREAL, 22 FEB. 2007 (ZENIT)
The so-called right to die could become
a duty to die, warns the director of the Catholic Organization for Life
In the second part of this interview, Michèle Boulva spoke with ZENIT
about the growing pressure to spread euthanasia in Canada. Part 1
Q: There are people who claim the right to die in the name of liberty.
What should one think of this?
Boulva: In our culture, personal autonomy has become almost an absolute.
Every choice is considered valid as long as it doesn't harm others.
Applied to euthanasia and assisted suicide, this individualist attitude
threatens the common good of society because it has consequences not
only for the person who chooses to die, but for the whole society.
As the renowned Canadian ethics expert, Margaret Somerville, has
written: "The legalization of euthanasia would be prejudicial to the
important values and symbols of society which are based on respect of
Our perception of the value and dignity of every human life would
change. As a consumer product, human life would lose its value as its
"expiration date" approaches.
The fundamental trust we place in doctors, in men and women nurses, in
lawyers, knowing that they are opposed to the elimination of any person,
Moreover, it would also be very difficult to prevent abuse. In our
society which is aging, which must face the rise in the cost of health
care, the so-called right to die would run the risk of becoming a "duty
According to Christian tradition, God grants to human beings a certain
degree of autonomy: Our intelligence and will allow us to make our own
decisions. However, we are not proprietors of the gift of life; we are
True liberty leads us not only to choose but to choose the true good
that God reveals to us for our eternal happiness. Every exercise of
liberty or every act of self-determination that contradicts God's plan
for us, as individuals or as social beings, is contrary to genuine
Q: On the occasion of the World Day of the Sick, you published a leaflet
entitled "Living, Suffering and Dying ... What for?" To whom is this
Boulva: Although this publication is addressed in principle to
Catholics, it will also be of interest to any person seeking happiness
and the meaning of existence and suffering. We conceived it in the
context of a de-Christianized society which needs to rediscover its
The time has arrived to again propose Christian hope. Christ comes to
give an unexpected meaning to our lives. Many find in him the source of
their perseverance, of their hope, and also of their joy in adversity.
This reflection invites readers to contemplate one of the great
mysteries of life: pain and suffering. It reveals their profound
Christian meaning, inspiring in them a renewed sense of hope, courage
Q: On what points do you especially insist?
Boulva: We recall God's formidable plan of love for each one of his
children on earth, his desire to enter into a relationship of friendship
with each one of us, his dream of seeing us collaborate freely with him
to build a more just and more human world, and how all this is realized
in the ordinary, everyday life.
It is there where we can experience an extraordinary encounter with God:
simply at work and in family life, in our free time and social
commitments, to speak to God and offer him everything out of love.
For Christ wanted to give a divine meaning to our lives. Our crosses,
big and small, united to his, find all their meaning in the Eucharist.
It is there that Christ takes them and offers them at the same time as
his so that we become co-redeemers with him. Can one imagine a greater
We address finally the question of solidarity, of palliative care and of
the call to true compassion that Christ puts to us, recognized in the
person who is alone, diminished, anxious and abandoned.
Each one of us is called at the same time to serve the suffering Christ
and to be Christ the Servant who supports the other in his days of
suffering so that he will keep up his courage until the natural end of
This is what it means for a Christian to "help to die: to help to live
until the other arrives naturally to the most important moment of his
life, his passage to eternity and his face-to-face encounter with God."