In October, 14 chaplains gathered via Zoom to discuss Medical Assistance in Dying (MAID) and similar legislation being implemented in Canada and several states. This is a relevant issue for several chaplains as they work in hospitals, hospices, and other healthcare institutions that carry out MAID.
Chaplains in these situations are challenged with providing pastoral care, both for people who have elected to end their life through MAID and the medical professionals who have to care for them. In addition, we recognize that MAID legislations are reactions to our society’s shift in thinking about life and death, in which the value of life is no longer a gift from God but about personal autonomy and control.
As chaplains, we recognize that this is where our church must step in to provide preaching, teaching, and support to help our congregations think holistically about life AND death. As Chaplain Dirk van der Vorst wrote, “Chaplains have always been present in the midst of great pain and suffering. Whether in a trench with soldiers or at the bedside of patient suffering with terminal illness, the Gospel compels us to be a gracious presence against the urge to be indifferent.”
During this time, some chaplains shared resources that help us understand MAID, what reactions have been, and how we can talk about death and dying in a more pastoral way. These resources, while not comprehensive, are a good place to start the conversation.
Articles: These articles recap recent events affecting MAID in Canada. While CRC chaplains have not been directly involved in these events, they represent the flux Canada is in regarding the way care is provided.
- Montrealers Who Challenged Assisted Dying Laws See Ruling as ‘Ray of Hope’
- B.C. Woman Drops Challenge of MAID Law After Learning She Qualifies for Assisted Dying
Medical Aid in Dying CRC statement (Attached below): This statement is a summation of the CRCNA’s stance on doctor-assisted death and sanctity of life. It was compiled by Dirk van der Vorst for the 2018 Chaplain Conference.
State of Knowledge on Medical Assistance in Dying for Mature Minors, Advance Requests, and Where and Mental Disorder Is the Sole Underlying Medical Condition (report): Tim De Jonge shared this summary of three reports prepared by a non-profit group commissioned by the federal government in Canada. These reports provide a sense for the kind of conversations taking place, at least among those who are professional and thoughtful about the issues.
DPOA and Code Status (Attached below): While medical assistance in dying or Death with Dignity legislation has passed in a handful of states, it’s important to talk about what happens at the end of one’s life. Ben Schaefer has given this presentation and aided with Advance Care Directives at several churches, providing helpful information on what happens at the end of life and how to plan for it.
Dignity Therapy: This resource helps address end of life concerns by targeting emotional pain by its source. The website lists a variety of questions that can enable chaplains and other pastors to reinforce people’s sense of being beloved image-bearers and sustain their sense of meaning, purpose, and self-worth – thereby decreasing distress and improving their quality of life.