It was reported in yesterday’s Globe and Mail that two elderly parishioners of St. James Cathedral made a decision to seek medical assistance in dying. At the request of the couple, their parish priest, Dean Andrew Asbil, was present at the time of death to offer prayers and provide support to the family.
I do not know the particular circumstances that led to their decision. They died together on Tuesday evening in Holy Week.
I am personally opposed to assisted death on theological and religious grounds. I would urge people to consider and choose different options. We are in the season of Easter, the central festival of the Christian faith, celebrating Jesus’ resurrection to life from the tomb of death, and we join with the newly baptised to live our own call to be agents of life. We have a responsibility as members of the Church to actively promote access to options that assist living, including good access to palliative care, pain reduction protocols, respite care and emotional and physical support for care givers.
In addition, the Church has a compelling duty of compassionate pastoral care in the name of Jesus, equally for those who make choices with which we may not agree, and for their family, friends and care givers before, during and after the death. I am grateful that, in this instance, their priest was willing and able to provide such care.
Almost exactly two years ago, I and the College of Bishops issued a pastoral statement on medically assisted death, and I urge you to read and discuss this.
Blessings for Easter.
The Most Reverend Colin R. Johnson,
Archbishop of Toronto
In Sure & Certain Hope: A resource published by the Anglican Church of Canada that can facilitate consideration of this important issue.
Archbishop’s Diary, The Anglican, April 2015.