Tuesday, September 29, 2009

Kill Bill - C-384 That Is

Private Member Bill Has Legs - What's Up With That?

Bill C-384 is a private member's bill supporting assisted suicide, put forward in the Spring by BQ member of parliament Francine Lalonde. It has Catholic Church leaders in Canada nervous, as reported in a lengthy section in last week's Catholic Register, all of which is worth reading.

This particular article about Sr. Nuala Kenny, a gutsy 67 year old nun with a pretty solid pedigree is one of several from that issue. Here's her pedigree:
Sr. Nuala Kenny has always been in the middle of things. The New York City girl who came north to join the Sisters of Charity of Halifax in 1962 has been a doctor, a pediatrician, a professor of medicine, a researcher, a founding governor of the Canadian Institutes of Health Research , a deputy minister of health in Nova Scotia and the founder of Dalhousie University’s department of bioethics .
She is worried about the debate that is going on, and about the culture that we now live in as she said:
We no longer know how to think about the common. We don’t know how to think about no man is an island, or the life and death of each of us involves all of us.

“The culture has changed. The culture has changed to ‘I want what I want when I want it.’

“That is the consequence of our being in the developed Western world, so oriented to individualism — I think rampant individualism — in every form.”
She spoke of the value of palliative care for the dying:
"The whole philosophy behind palliative care was not just to do better pain and symptom control. But it was to restore dying to the normal and the natural. It was to demedicalize it. It wasn’t to increasingly medicalize it.”
In 1982, my father passed away in St. Joseph's Hospital in London, Ontario. My mother, sister, and I kept a vigil with him as he lay dying from heart failure, in the intensive care ward of that fine hospital. Some time after he was admitted, my sister and I received a miracle, as we discovered later. We went up to see him on the Saturday afternoon after he was admitted to hospital, and he was sitting up in bed. He had been comatose until then since he had arrived at the hospital a few days before, and went back into a coma later that day, but for a few hours my sister and I had our father back. We told stories, laughed, and had our final hours of the fullness of life with him. Over the next few days, we found out that he had had only 5% of his heart function and what we say happened could not have happened logically, but we were there, and it did happen, and for the grace of that time, we are both forever grateful. We had the chance to say good bye to our Dad, though we did not know it at the time.

My mother and I met with the attending physician a few days later, and discussed ongoing care for my father. The kindly doctor told us that my father would not recover consciousness, told us about the state of his heart and other bodily systems. We agreed to remove extraordinary measures of life support from my father, so that he could die with dignity. He was intubated so that his body was nourished, and was given pain medications so that his pain was managed. The next day, we were all gathered in a quiet room near the intensive care area, and heard the code call and knew that my father had finally passed away.

We were allowed to work our way through our father and husband's death as it was happening and then to grieve the loss of him in our lives, and now to remember him with love and great affection.

A few years ago, my mother was admitted to Victoria Hospital with serious illness. Although my wife and I were both disabled by that time, we and my sister spent our time with her as best we could, and also my cousins and aunt, were there. We have one dear cousin who is a cancer nurse at Victoria, and so knows most folks and also the ropes. We observed some tests done and knew that my mother's time was getting short, though it all seemed so sudden. My sister had to return to Toronto, and my cousin, the nurse and her sister were with us in the evening.

The doctor told us that we should go home, and that if there was anything going on he would call us. We were getting ready for bed, when the phone rang, about 11:30. We called my cousins to meet us back at the hospital, and then called for the on call priest to administer the Last Rites to my mother, which he did. The staff, both nurses and doctors were so supportive, as well. The nurses worked to make my mother comfortable, knowing that she was on her final journey.

My dear cousin, the nurse, took over as they do in such situations, being trained for that, but also having the heart for it too. She gathered us around my mother's bed, and we said prayers for her, knowing that her time was short. As we said the final words of the Our Father, we all knew that my mother left us to go and be with God. We all felt her spirit leave the room, and we were at peace that she was safely in the arms of Our Saviour.

In both of these instances, and in at least one other of personal significance that I just don't have the heart to write about right now, the Supremacy of God was clearly evident, and we trusted in His/Her Supremacy, not out of wisdom on our parts, but out of the grace that flowed to us from God.

Assisted suicide removes the opportunity for these grace filled moments, and puts man in charge, not God. I hope and pray that Bill C-384 dies the death that it should.

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