MAID and spirituality: A Christian perspective
News & Updates | July 22, 2022 | Sarah Dobec
Canada has one of the most progressive and accessible assisted dying laws in the world. The Supreme Court of Canada recognized medical assistance in dying as a constitutionally-protected right in 2015. We know that 87% of Canadians support the right to medical assistance in dying for those who meet the eligibility criteria, but some Canadians still grapple with the option to end one’s intolerable suffering because of their religious and spiritual beliefs.
In this series – MAID and spirituality – we share insights from various religious leaders and people who are in support of medical assistance in dying and how they reconcile this position in their faith that might have an opposing stance.
Jan Steven is a devout Christian and a supporter of Dying With Dignity Canada. When we approached Jan about the opportunity to participate in a blog series about medical assistance in dying (MAID) and religion, Jan was happy to share her beliefs; we are grateful for her perspective.
As a starting place, we asked Jan to share her Christian beliefs and viewpoint.
“As Christian, I believe in the claims that Jesus made about himself, and I do my best to follow his instructions for daily living. What Jesus said is, ‘Do two things; love the Lord, your God, with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind, and love your neighbour as yourself.’ His greatest teaching, from my perspective, is his Sermon on the Mount. It’s a beautiful sermon that suggests we have a challenge ahead of us to live rightly, compassionately and justly within our world, and to respond to others in ways of righteousness, compassion and justice.” She goes on to say, “If someone was to ask me to describe what Christianity is without mentioning Jesus, my answer is compassion.”
Jan has spoken to her community and congregation about medical assistance in dying, offering an open discussion about a topic that is often considered taboo or unacceptable. She believes that when a person is nearing the end of life, and they are suffering, they deserve the compassion that MAID offers to end that suffering. She honours any choice that a person might make at the end of life, whether that be palliative care or MAID, but she believes that there is no advantage to suffering and we need to ask, “Who does it serve?”
In her faith, the God she believes in is also called The Great Healer. The way Jan sees it, if a person is diagnosed with a condition that has treatment and medication to cure or manage it, accepting that treatment or medication does not break a person’s faith. Similarly, if at the end of life, a person is suffering unbearably and they choose MAID, they are not breaking their faith because it is based on compassion. She added, “We do not have definitive answers for everything, but what I do know for certain is that no one should suffer. If we don’t have a direct answer from the scripture, then what is the most compassionate response we can possibly give?”
Jan went on to say, “If we really want to follow the teachings of Jesus about non-violence, maybe we should be aware of the number of people who die every day from the sins of commission, such as warfare, and the sins of omission, which include neglect and famine. How then can we have an issue with someone who chooses to end their life early because they are suffering, but ignore people who die alone without community or from a lack of nutrition? If we want to talk about life, we need to talk about all of life.”