Ethics & Religion
June 8, 2017
Can Euthanasia Be Justified?
By Mike McManus
John Shields knew he was near death at age 78, of a rare disease,
amyloidosis. It is painful, so Shields, a Canadian living his last days
in a hospice, decided to organize an Irish wake for himself, with music
and booze before he died - to celebrate with friends.
After the wake, he intended to die swiftly and peacefully by lethal
injection, administered by his doctor. Last June Canada legalized what
it termed "medical assistance in dying" for competent adult patients who
are near death suffering intolerably from irremediable illnesses. His
doctor, Stefanie Green, informed him that he qualified.
"Having control over the terms of his death made him feel empowered over
the disease, rather than crippled by it," The New York Times reported in
a front page story on May 28. "Mr. Shields believed that dying openly
and without fear could be his most meaningful legacy - which was saying
something. He had been a civil rights activist, a social worker for
children, the head of a British Columbia's biggest union, and most
recently, the savior of a foundering land trust that included 7,191
acres of protected wilderness."
Since arriving at a hospice on a stretcher, he had not left his bed for
17 days. In conversation, he lasted only 15 minutes before his eyes
He had led several different lives. He began as a Catholic priest, but
was forced out when he challenged the pope's opposition to birth
He became an activist in the civil rights movement, married, and became
President of the British Columbia Government Employees Union, which grew
by more than 20,000 members to 58,700 under his leadership. He was
proudest of securing equal pay for women in the union.
His wife became ill and died in 1999. He was still grieving his wife's
death in 2005 when he met a woman who later became his second wife. A
year and a half ago they were driving in Vancouver when he blacked out.
They crashed. He broke his back in three places and she suffered five
A biopsy of his heart taken after the accident revealed that he had
amyloidosis, which caused his heart to stop beating. The disease would
likely cause him to lose all feeling and basic use of his arms and legs
before shutting down his heart.
After his diagnosis, Shields retreated into his study and fell into
grief. As someone who treasured his independence, the concept of being
trapped in his own body frightened him. He searched the internet for
what he called "life-ending cocktails."
That's how he came in contact with Dr. Stephanie Green, who had spent
years delivering hundreds of babies. She wanted a change in her life and
attended a conference on assisted suicide. Most doctors have refused to
participate, because it violated their Hippocratic Oath, "to do no
harm." Christian doctors in Ontario are suing their professional
Dr. Green explained her shift to euthanasia with strange words: "Birth
and death, deliveries in and out - I find it very transferable. Both are
really intense and really important."
Canadian law says participants must be adults in an advanced state of a
"grievous and irremediable medical condition." Their suffering must be
intolerable and their natural death "reasonably foreseeable."
Vancouver Island is a retirement community where 80 people chose
"medical deaths" in the first six months of the law. Across Canada 803
On March 23 at 6 p.m., friends gathered in a solarium where there were
bottles of a local Shiraz, with "Rebellion on Your Own Terms" on the
label. There were bowls of fruit and a chocolate hazelnut cake. People
arrived with flowers and instruments.
At 8:12 John Shields was wheeled in sitting on a giant humming airbed.
When presented with his plate of Swiss Chalet chicken, he asked, "You
think I'm only going to have one portion?" Everyone laughed.
Then many offered proclamations of love, admiration and gratitude. They
thanked him for opening his door when they were broken hearted. As a
former priest, he offered his blessings.
In letters to the editor, after the story appeared, Dr. Ronald Pies
wrote that In the Netherlands, 66 psychiatric patients were euthanized,
"despite disagreements." He noted that in 2015 the World Medical
Association stated, "Physician-assisted suicide, like euthanasia, is
unethical and must be condemned by the medical profession. However, the
right to decline medical treatment is a basic right of the patient."
If doctors can kill patients, is this the first step for families to
kill their elderly?
Most patients lack the charm of Shields, and face frightening prospects.
Copyright (c) 2017 Michael J. McManus,
President of Marriage Savers and a syndicated columnist. For previous
columns go to
Search for any topic.
2019: Column 1965: Protecting Girls from Suicide
Eight Reasons To Marry
Ten Myths of Marriage
The Ministry of Marriage 911
The Message by Eugene Peterson
Green New Deal
Christian Persecution Rising Abroad
Gun Control Laws Needed
The Worst Valentine:
Pornography: A Public Health Hazard
Sextortion Kills Teens
Cohabitation: A Risky Business
same sex marriage,
abortion and infanticide,