This month we continue our reflections on Laudato Si’, where Pope Francis calls for an integral ecology which respects both creation and human dignity.
For October’s reflection Script click HERE.
An easy to print Marist Laity Guide is HERE
For an easy to print Marian Mothers guide click HERE
The audio is no longer available for this month, but you can still read the script – see link above.
Laudato Si’ – End of Life Choice Bill October 2020
In light of Laudato Si’ I want to explore some aspects of the End of Life Choice Bill. Compassion
for suffering unites us all. Many of us have accompanied loved ones as they face the fear and
uncertainty of serious or terminal illness. In Laudato Si’ Pope Francis slams attacks against human
life such as abortion, embryonic experimentation and population control – saying that respect for
creation and human dignity go hand in hand. The Pope explained that “a sense of deep communion
with the rest of nature cannot be real if our hearts lack tenderness, compassion and concern for our
fellow human beings.”
In paragraph 224, we hear, “When we fail to acknowledge as part of reality the worth of a
poor person, a human embryo, a person with disabilities, or we might add, a terminally ill person –
to offer just a few examples – it becomes difficult to hear the cry of nature itself; everything is
connected.” The Pope cautioned against seeking “absolute power” over our bodies as if they were
something that we own. Once the human being seeks absolute dominion, the foundations of our
life “begin to crumble.”
The End of Life referendum in New Zealand is not asking if we agree with Euthanasia in
principle, the referendum is to say Yes or No to putting the already completed Law into effect. There
will be no amendments. Many New Zealanders are not fully aware of this and the Law being voted
on is considered to lack even basic safeguards which other countries have included.
Alleviating pain is part of good palliative care and current end of life care but does not extend
to intentional killing. Assisted suicide represents the abandonment of those in greatest need of our
care and support. Mistakes and abuse are impossible to avoid. No ‘safeguards’ will ever guarantee
that deaths under the proposed law will be completely voluntary and there is no second chance.
Mistakes happen, power imbalances are very real when a person is frail or ill and those who are
most vulnerable, whose ability to speak up for themselves is limited by fear, illness or old age, are
I want to share 10 key concerns with this particular bill.
1. The Act does not require independent witnesses to be present for any stage of the process.
We need to ensure that the law avoids wrongful deaths at all costs. In contrast, in Australia,
a request for assisted dying must be witnessed by two independent witnesses and the
coordinating medical practitioner.
2. Under the Act, 18- and 19-year-olds who meet the eligibility criteria will be able to receive
euthanasia or assisted suicide. It is that young person’s own decision whether to tell any of
their friends or family about their plan. Although a health practitioner must “encourage” the
person to discuss their wish with others, the health practitioner is required to ensure that the
person knows that they are not obliged to discuss their wish with anyone.
3. The Act does not require a person to be screened for mental illness or depression before they
can be eligible for assisted dying. To be eligible, the Act requires that a person is experiencing
unbearable suffering. There is no definition of what unbearable suffering is.
4. Under the Act, a person is not required to be in any physical pain whatsoever. The
interpretation of “unbearable suffering” is left wide open to include suffering of any kind
(such as psychological, mental, social and spiritual suffering).
5. An eligible person is not required to have undergone any treatment for their illness before
opting for euthanasia or assisted suicide. The Act has no requirement that assisted dying is
only to be used as a last resort. There is concern that, over time, assisted death could become
so normalised that society will consider assisted death as the logical next step when someone
receives a terminal diagnosis, rather than focusing on providing emotional and medical
support to help someone to process the grief of their diagnosis.
6. Overseas, assisted dying laws often have ‘cooling off’ or ‘stand down’ periods, which require
people to wait for a period of time between requesting assisted dying and their actual death.
This important safeguard helps to ensure that someone doesn’t make an impulsive decision,
and can help to identify other factors at play, such as pressure from family or friends. The Act
doesn’t have this.
7. We hear all the time about people who were ‘given’ six months to live, but survived much
longer. Even palliative care experts say at best, that they can only provide an estimate.
8. The doctor/patient relationship is based on trust. This relies on the doctor’s legal and ethical
obligations to only act in the patient’s best interests, and never to cause harm (as enshrined
in the Hippocratic Oath).
…the Act does not allow doctors to exercise their clinical judgement regarding whether an
assisted death is appropriate in an individual case. Once a patient has made a request and
been deemed eligible under the law, they have a legal right to receive assisted dying.
9. The Act does not do enough to address the risk of a person being explicitly pressured to end
their lives. Elder abuse is already a real problem in New Zealand. The Act takes the risk to the
next level. The doctor is required only to “do their best” to make sure the person is not being
pressured – hardly a robust test, and certainly not objective. Also, that doctor is not required
to have any prior relationship with the patient so the chance of being able to identify any
pressure is significantly reduced.
10. In the vast majority of cases, a person’s end of life suffering can be significantly reduced
through quality palliative care. Unfortunately, high quality palliative care is currently
underfunded, and not equally accessible across New Zealand. If the Act becomes law, there
will be less incentive to resource improving palliative care.
To learn more about the Act, I suggest you go to the Votesafe website HERE. There are good resources
there to help all people make an informed decision.
Pope Francis states in paragraph 241 of Laudato Si’ – Mary, the Mother who cared for Jesus, now
cares with maternal affection and pain for this wounded world. We call upon her intercession for
New Zealand as we vote in these elections and for these referenda.
Begin Your Gathering with Prayer
Then read Matthew 6:25-27, 31-34
“Therefore I tell you, do not worry about your life, what you will eat or drink; or about your body, what you will wear. Is not life more than food, and the body more than clothes? Look at the birds of the air; they do not sow or reap or store away in barns, and yet your heavenly Father feeds them. Are you not much more valuable than they? Can any one of you by worrying add a single hour to your life? … So do not worry, saying, ‘What shall we eat?’ or ‘What shall we drink?’ or ‘What shall we wear?’ For the pagans run after all these things, and your heavenly Father knows that you need them. But seek first his kingdom and his righteousness, and all these things will be given to you as well. Therefore do not worry about tomorrow, for tomorrow will worry about itself. Each day has enough troubles of its own.”
Read the Scripture again to yourself.
Share a word, phrase, or sense that touches you.
Read the Script above or listen to the reflection.
Questions for Marist Laity
1. What strikes you from the reflection?
2. Why do you think people seek ‘absolute power’ over their bodies? How can the Gospel speak to those issues?
3. If you have accompanied a dying person, how does that experience impact your reaction to the referendum?
4.What most surprised you in the 10 Concerns with the End of Life Bill?
5. How could you share that information with others? Go to www.votesafe.nz for more resources
Starter questions for Marian Mothers
1. What strikes you from the reflection? What surprised you?
2. What is your experience of someone dying and how does that influence your thoughts on the referendum?
3. As a Christian mother, how are you engaging your family in reflection on the referendum?
4. How can family and Gospel values speak to persons who want ‘absolute power’ over their bodies?
At the Crib we find innocence, simplicity, gentleness and even the weakness of a God who is capable of touching the hardest of hearts… There is no room for fear of a God who became a child.
(Water from the Rock 21, p.28. Following in the Tradition of M. Champagnat)
Marian Mothers Charter No. 8
A Christian mother reaches out to support and encourage all mothers and is open to receive the same from others.
“I thank my God whenever I think of you… My prayer is that your love for each other may increase more and more…” Philippians 1:3-11
Conclude your meeting with this Prayer:
God of compassion, this election, we ask for eyes to see each other as brothers and sisters, equal in dignity, and for ears to hear the cries of the oppressed. We ask for minds and hearts open to those who respect life and will work for all that is true, good and beautiful. Mary our mother and mentor, pray for us that rather than thinking about what will benefit us personally in the election and referendum choices, we discern what will protect the poor and vulnerable and uphold the dignity of creation, so that as a nation we create a connected future for all. We pray for wisdom and humility. Mary, Patron of Aotearoa, New Zealand.. Pray for Us.