Teachers and students now have easy access to an online resource that clearly explains why the Catholic Church supports palliative care, but rejects euthanasia.
The Church’s ‘Care First’ approach to end-of-life care is given voice on a new ‘Catholic identity’ page available on the Brisbane Catholic Education website.
This educational tool will remain relevant regardless of the recent vote on legalising Voluntary Assisted Dying (VAD) in Queensland, as individuals and their families will continue to be faced with decisions on life-limiting illnesses well into the future.
Content on the new webpage is derived from a video-link panel discussion conducted by journalist Madonna King in October last year, while the Queensland Law Reform Commission was hearing views and perspectives on the possible introduction of Voluntary Assisted Dying (VAD) laws into Queensland.
The BCE resource serves as a discussion starting point for teachers and students, with detailed information and insights from specialist doctors, community advocates and church leaders including Brisbane Archbishop Mark Coleridge and Fr Frank Brennan, currently Professor of Law at Australian Catholic University.
Content developers Paul Blom and Peggy Roe, both Education Officers within BCE’s Religious Education Learning Services, said this was a timely resource teachers can use with students to effectively teach the Catholic/Christian perspective on the issue.
“To have so much content available on euthanasia and assisted suicide (so called VAD) in one location is wonderful and would be very helpful in planning to teach on the issue,” Blom said.
“The bite size segments are just what we need to get the students thinking about the different ways this proposed legislation will impact upon others.”
“The media often portray the issue of euthanasia and assisted suicide as a ‘rights’ issue, but who’s rights?
“The media hardly ever give all the different views to the issue, so how can we be fully informed?
“There are many different views to this very complex issue and this resource helps to open up the discussion and inform us of the different groups that will be effected by this legislation,” he said.
Amongst the array of video clip answers from experts, many debunk the myths and misunderstandings about the official Catholic view on end-of-life care, which, surprising to some, does not demand that life be prolonged at all costs.
The material also gives a clear definition and understanding of what palliative care is, and why it must be offered as an alternative to VAD.
“Our whole community is so unfamiliar these days with what is normal dying, what happens when people get older, frailer… and something happens that brings them to the close of their life,” Dr Judith McEniery, a palliative medicine specialist, said in one video clip response.
“I’d like people to be educated – both the public and our health care professionals – so that people realise that assisted suicide changes what doctors and health professionals do – it changes the very core of their approach, and that there is so much that can be done that we already have the means to do (without the necessity of VAD).”
In another video clip, Archbishop Coleridge said euthanasia or VAD represented an “unexpressed hopelessness” – a fear of death and a desperate desire to control it.
“The thing that most troubles me (about legalising VAD) is that in claiming to create a society in which dignity, compassion and freedom are protected, enshrined and advanced, I think we might in fact be doing the opposite.
“With the best of intentions, and there are many examples of this in history, we end up doing the exact opposite of the very thing we had in mind.
“It amounts to a serious erosion of what I judge to be a genuinely human society, one that cares for all, particularly the vulnerable,” he said.
Also on BCE’s Catholic Identity web page, Archbishop Coleridge gives a nine minute video message clarifying a Catholic perspective to voluntary assisted dying.
It is hoped that teachers from systemic Catholic schools and Religious Institute schools across the Brisbane Archdiocese will make wide use of these new resources in the wake of a decision on VAD.