A Canadian church has hosted an assisted suicide ceremony for one of its members..
The Churchill Park United Church of Winnipeg held what it described as a “Crossing Over Ceremony” in which an 86 year old, Betty Sanguin, ended her life through an assisted suicide in the church sanctuary.
Minister of Churchill Park, Rev. Dawn Rolke, said that it “seemed appropriate” to hold the ceremony in the sanctuary, as churches are often “host and home to all the raggedness of our lives and to some of our significant life rituals: baptism, marriage, ordination, funeral or memorial services”.
“For us, it was perfectly natural to hold this service for Betty in our sanctuary because death is a natural part of life and Betty had lived a good part of her adulthood in this faith community”.
According to the Christian Post, the typical sanctuary seating was removed and replaced by comfortable chairs, tables, flowers and a recliner, which Sanguin occupied during the ceremony as people came to visit her.
The lethal cocktail of drugs was administered at 1p.m. and Sanguin, who had been diagnosed with motor neurone disease, was dead within the hour.
“The children and some grandchildren went back into the sanctuary to be with Betty”, recalled Rolke. “And people began to quietly come and go from Betty’s side as the medicine took effect. It was like a wake”.
Betty’s body was removed at 4p.m. by staff from a funeral home.
Rolke said that while one congregant did express concerns about the assisted suicide being performed in a church, no one approached her with objections to the ceremony as such.
Expanding assisted suicide laws
In neighbouring province Ontario, the number of deaths by euthanasia increased by over 30% in 2021 compared to the previous year.
According to data released by the Office of the Chief Coroner of Ontario, there were 3,102 deaths by euthanasia in the province in 2021 compared to 2,378 in 2020. This represents a 30.4% increase in death by euthanasia in Ontario in a single year.
The data released from the Chief Coroner’s Office also show there were 298 deaths in December 2021 alone compared with 188 in December 2020. According to the data, the average age of those seeking assisted suicide and euthanasia was 76 and the youngest person to end their life in this way was 20.
Euthanasia has been legal in Canada since 2016. In 2019, however, following the euthanising of Alan Nichols, a former school caretaker who was physically healthy but struggled with depression, the legal requirement that a person be terminally ill before administration of euthanasia was dropped.
Right To Life UK spokesperson, Catherine Robinson, said: “The death of a congregant by assisted suicide within a church, and its comparison with other life events like baptism and marriage, is extremely perverse”.