Misguided Compassion, the “Right” to Die, and the Christian Response

Heart Rate

This past Sunday, I took a few moments to make some commentary on the recent decision by our Supreme Court to strike down the ban on physician assisted suicide.  Here is a rough paraphrase of what I touched upon.


We have been trying to make some brief commentaries about current issues during our gatherings.  And so before I begin my sermon I’d like to make a few comments about the recent decision by the Supreme Court of Canada in which they struck down the ban on assisted suicide.

Maybe you didn’t know about it, maybe you didn’t care, maybe you were troubled by it, maybe you’re wondering why it’s a big deal.

It needs to be said that this decision, and the public support behind it, is motivated by compassion.  There are many people suffering in our country and it is right and compassionate to want to end suffering.  Compassion is good but in this issue the compassion is seriously misguided.

We must all seek to diminish suffering.  The classic Christian moral tradition, which we inherit, has always asserted that we must never eliminate suffering by eliminating the sufferer.  This is because every life is precious, worthy of protection, not because of conditions or circumstances but just because it is a human life.

We should be concerned for several reasons:

1)  That this “right” will soon become an obligation.  Sufferers may soon face pressure to make what some will consider the “brave choice”.  Likewise, those who choose to continue living may be increasingly seen as being a burden.

2)  Christianity has always looked out for the most vulnerable of our society.  For us, these are namely the aged, the mentally ill, the marginalized, and the disabled.  We are promised safeguards for physician assisted suicide but the terms are vague, subjective, and do not inspire confidence.  The most vulnerable among us may well be placed in a precarious situation.

3)  When the door to this kind of death is opened, we have no way to stop where it may go.  This concern is often dismissed as a ‘slippery slope argument’ but we need only look to some places in Europe – Switzerland, Belgium, Denmark – to see what abuses are already occurring.

4)  Finally, we should be concerned that other avenues for alleviating suffering such as investment in hospice care and palliative research will be diminished.  These have only just begun to be explored.

We also have a different resource than some of our neighbours for resisting this false compassion.  We have a framework into which we can place the virtue of compassion.  We believe and follow God, the Author of all life.  We believe in the Gospel – the Good News of Jesus which makes us His people.  This Gospel message gives us every resource we need to live in times such as these.  It may be that in the years to come, those who stand for a culture of life will sound increasingly like a voice crying in the wilderness.  But we ought not to be troubled, we have been appointed to live in times like these.  The age we live in, with all its confusion and troubles, is a gift to us.  It gives us a chance to live like saints in the midst of society.  So let’s be firm, not be troubled, and hear the call to live like saints in our world and in our neighbourhoods.  And let us always stand for life.

For more commentary:

Why Assisted Suicide Will Put Canada’s Most Vulnerable At Risk – Steve Swan (yours truly), CBC

Our Euthanasia Point of No Return – Father Raymond J. de Souza

A Very Dangerous Euthanasia Ruling – Alex Schadenberg

Crossing the Rubicon, Supreme Court seems eerily complacent about ramifications of assisted suicide ruling – Andrew Coyne

Bruce Clemenger on 100 Huntley Street (video) – Bruce Clemenger of the EFC




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