Catholic Vancouver March 21, 2018

Parish launches campaign against euthanasia in hospice care

By Agnieszka Ruck

The Catholic Women’s League and the Helpers of St. Anne have teamed up to invite neighbours to speak out against mandating assisted suicide in palliative care centres. (Photos by Agnieszka Krawczynski / The B.C. Catholic)

WHITE ROCK—Charitable groups in South Surrey are adding their voices to the mounting debate about providing assisted suicide in hospices.

The Catholic Women’s League, Helpers of St. Anne, and Knights of Columbus have joined forces to oppose Fraser Health Authority’s move to mandate assisted suicide in all end-of-life care facilities.

“Our groups are groups of service, giving, and care,” said Linda Doig, a member of the Helpers of St. Anne. The group runs a soup kitchen, delivers free coats to the homeless, and serves other vulnerable people.

She’s opposed to bringing assisted suicide into hospices or care homes, saying the practice is contrary to the reason these places exist. She’s also worried rights of people who don’t want to die by lethal injection will be trampled.

“We should have places that are safe for vulnerable people,” she said. “We know it’s being suggested to people, that (their care) is costly, that they’re taking a bed, that it’s time to go. These are very vulnerable people and we choose that they should have a choice not to be subjected to that treatment.”

Her group, along with local members of the Catholic Women’s League and Knights of Columbus, launched a campaign encouraging the community to write letters to government in March.

Knights of Columbus Al Whyte and John Punzo with handouts to encourage community members to write about their concerns to government. 

Within two weekends, the trio gave away an estimated 1,000 handouts at the three parish churches – Good Shepherd, Holy Cross, and Star of the Sea – each with suggested talking points and mailing addresses for politicians and the chairman of Fraser Health.

“Our core belief is that life is precious from the moment of conception to natural end,” said Beth Brewer, a community life executive for the CWL. She encourages churchgoers and neighbours to write personal letters, saying they carry more weight than form letters or emails.

“We’re hoping that B.C. will lead the way for the rest of the provinces in Canada to get on board” by refusing to mandate assisted suicide in hospices and palliative care centres.

Brewer also planned to promote the campaign among representatives from 57 CWL councils across the Lower Mainland at a meeting March 24.

Wilma Pyplacz and Beth Brewer study the handout.

It’s an urgent matter, said Carolyn Wharton, who launched the project. “We need hundreds of personally written letters if our concerns and objections are to be taken seriously,” she said.

“Hospices must be allowed to continue to offer the most loving atmosphere promoting neither a hastened or prolonged end-of-life experience to their residents for the sake of patients, employees, volunteers, and donors who have chosen to support this wonderful community service.”

Star of the Sea parishioner Wilma Pyplacz is on board. “It’s wonderful that they’ve taken the time and the concern to do this and send it out to everybody. It is so important.”

The groups also plan to host a public event to rally support and raise awareness about the issue at Star of the Sea School May 2. Speakers will include MLA Mary Polak, MLA Marvin Hunt, retired family doctor Karen Mason, and hospice volunteer Kiernan Hillan.