By Nicholas Elbers
Caring and compassion are the most effective solutions we have to combat the growing requests for Medical Assistance in Dying, Euthanasia Prevention Coalition Executive Director Alex Schadenberg told a large gathering at St. Nicholas Church in Langley.
The presentation, entitled “How do we talk to our loved ones about euthanasia?,” unpacked the cultural shift in Canadian culture toward widespread acceptance of assisted suicide while offering ways to help protect the most vulnerable from euthanasia.
Despite media narratives suggesting that euthanasia is offered to relieve physical suffering, Schadenberg said the reality is that most people who request euthanasia do so for emotional and psychological reasons.
According to Schadenberg, this means we need to reframe some of our core thinking around assisted death. “The question is not why are they being approved for euthanasia, the question is why are they asking for it?” he said.
Ultimately, Schadenberg believes the problem is not only that we have a culture of death, but that we also have a “culture of loneliness.”
Schadenberg believes the core reason for the shocking number of deaths by euthanasia in Canada – 10,064 deaths in 2021, up from 7,595 deaths in 2020 (the 2022 data is not available yet) – is loneliness, despair, and lack of meaning in life.
“Yes, there are people who are going through significant pain and suffering,” he said, but they are the minority. “Most people ask for euthanasia because they are going through a difficult time of life, whether that be a physical or psychological condition, and they are experiencing feelings of loneliness, depression, and that their life lacks meaning, purpose, or value.”
In short, it’s a spiritual problem.
The people who are most at risk of assisted suicide are also the people least likely to come forward, while people who want euthanasia are more vocal and are more likely to approach the media.
Schadenberg highlighted recent accounts of so-called “deaths of despair” while the lack of media representation for the vulnerable is a core problem moving forward.
We are relational beings that were created by God for community and when that is absent we are at our most vulnerable, said Schadenberg. “Creating a culture of care is the only effective solution.
“We need to focus on visiting and being with others and being a caring part of this culture,” he said. “There is nothing easy about this situation, but the answer to this evil of killing is to love each other. It is the beginning. It is the foundation of it all.”
Near the end of his talk, Schadenberg recounted a story about a woman who plays Scrabble with an elderly woman every Friday. The senior told her friend she was considering euthanasia and asked why it was a bad idea.
Her friend responded, “because I come here to play with you every week. I would miss you.”
The elderly woman considered that for a moment and said, “”OK then, I guess I won’t do it.”
Showing someone they are valued and loved may not always be so easy, said Schadenber, but “ “You can make a difference. You can be the person who helps someone find meaning and value in their lives.”