NEWS

Theological consultation for Canadian Anglicans on medical assistance in dying

Huron University College’s Centre for Public Theology hosts a series of conversations on medical assistance in dying in London on November 29 and 30.

By Sharon Lindenburger

Three years after Bill C-14, Medical Assistance in Dying (MAiD), became law, questions continue to arise about it and our theology surrounding life and death, not least in the face of efforts already underway to expand the parameters of the Act.

Huron University College’s Centre for Public Theology, supported by SSHRC and the Anglican Foundation, will shortly host an event in London Ontario on these questions —Medical Assistance in Dying: A Theological Consultation for Canadian Anglicans. On November 29 and 30, delegates from dioceses across Canada and locally within the Diocese of Huron, will gather for a series of conversations regarding problematic aspects of where Bill C-14 is leading us. These aspects include pressure to expand MAiD criteria to mental illness, physical and mental disabilities, children, and advance directives—all of which need a much closer examination.

Dr. Theo Boer of the Netherlands will travel to the consultation to share insights from the 50 years of the Dutch experience of legalized euthanasia. Dr. Boer, a theologian and professor of ethics, initially played a key role in crafting the legislation in the Netherlands, but now several decades later, he asserts that expansions in the Dutch laws have resulted in some very questionable and troubling outcomes.

He currently travels worldwide as a speaker on this issue and his insights are crucial for Canada which is at a much earlier stage of implementing the practice.

Other speakers include: Robert Tees, a chaplain from the Niagara Region; Lizette-Larson Miller, professor of liturgical theology at Huron; Eitel (Ike) Lindenburger on Capacity Assessment; Trudo Lemmens of Osgoode Hall Faculty of Law in Toronto, and widely considered as a foremost expert in Canada on medical bioethics and the law, particularly regarding MAiD; Agiah Attagusiak, an Inuit chaplain concerned with end of life issues among indigenous populations; Bishops Michael Hawkins of Saskatchewan and Gregory Kerr-Wilson of Calgary; Rev. Eric Beresford of Toronto, and John Guido of L’Arche Toronto.

“There is within the Anglican Church of Canada and the Churches generally a great need for more theologically informed discourse on MAiD,” says Huron University College’s Dr. Gary Badcock.

“The aim of this important national consultation is first of all to foster connections and  conversations across disciplines, and to produce written resources for the Church. We are fortunate to have some of the best individuals in Canada at the forefront of the MAiD debate, as well as drawing upon the international expertise of Dr. Boer”,  says Badcock.

“This upcoming consultation is going to give us the opportunity to do what we as a church are called to do, which is to allow solid theological input into the secular discourse on MAiD. The church has been largely ignored in giving its input, and this needs to change,” suggests Huron College’s chaplain, Rev. Dr. Gary Thorne. “Our hope is that the consultation will give us both the courage and the tools to enter the debate and to be heard.”

Osgoode Hall’s Faculty of Law professor, Trudo Lemmens, agrees. “Churches in my opinion should get involved in discussing the problematic issues surrounding where the MAiD laws are taking us, and not be intimidated into simply ceding ground to secular forces. As a lawyer and bioethicist who has been dealing with MAiD issues across the country for several years, I welcome the opportunity for dialogue with theologians, clergy, and ethicists. I think this consultation is very important and I’m happy to be part of it.”

Diocesan clergy are welcome to attend. For further information, contact Dr. Gary Badcock, [email protected]

Sharon Lindenburger is a former journalist and editor. She completed her MA in Theology at Huron University College and is now doing a PhD in hermeneutics, culture, and sacred texts through Western’s Faculty of English.