Jack Sorenson’s life ended at his request by lethal injection on October 3 against his wife’s wishes. This resulted in troubling legal questions surrounding his death that have yet to be fully addressed.
Lawyers for Sorenson’s wife, Katherine, may seek leave to appeal to Canada’s top court to rule on whether the 83-year-old Nova Scotia man’s euthanasia was lawful.
Katherine, 82, went to court in July to stop her husband’s euthanasia, originally scheduled to take place on August 3.
She contended that Jack, who had Stage III chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD) and other minor health concerns, was not seriously ill or dying, but suffered from anxiety and delusions about his medical condition, and therefore had questionable capacity to consent.
Moreover, he had had conflicting assessments of his eligibility for euthanasia, having been rejected as ineligible in April before being approved in July.
The couple had known each other for 60 years and been married for 48, but after Katherine took legal action, Jack left their home and no longer spoke to his wife.
Katherine did not know he had died at the Fisherman’s Memorial Hospital in Lunenburg that Saturday when she got call from the funeral home telling her they had his body, CBC reported.
“When communicating with Katherine, it was sad to learn that she was not informed about her husband’s death until after the funeral home received him,” said Alex Schadenberg, executive director of the Euthanasia Prevention Coalition, which is financing the court challenge.
In the obituary she wrote for Jack, who during his long life had been a music professor, a CBC producer, and a restaurateur, Katherine asked for donations to the Euthanasia Prevention Coalition in lieu of flowers.
After weeks of being apart, her husband’s death was not a shock and she was doing “pretty well, considering,” Katherine told CBC.
“I’ve had a wonderful life with Jack. There have been, as with any marriage, lots of varying opinions between the spouses and I thought we did a pretty good job of reconciling two pretty opposite views,” she said, “until this issue came up of end of life.”
Katherine is a Christian and her husband had been an atheist since early adulthood.
Jack Sorenson was euthanized a day after three judges of the Nova Scotia Court of Appeal ruled that stopping him from being lethally injected would constitute “significant harm,” and was contrary to his “fundamental right to personal autonomy and medical self-determination,” according to the CBC.
Justice Cindy Bourgeois wrote the decision, which ruled that courts should not intervene in assessments made by medical practitioners. (She also clarified that there was no publication ban, even though lower courts had not identified the couple out of privacy concerns.)
“(I)t is clear Parliament fully intended,” Bourgeois wrote, “provided it is undertaken in a manner consistent with the law, the determination of MAID (Medical Assistance in Dying) eligibility should rest with authorized medical and nursing professionals not with judges.”
The court also ruled Katherine did not have the legal right to contest what her husband was trying to do and that her “feelings do not give her standing to challenge the determination he meets the eligibility criteria for MAID.”
Under Canada’s Bill C-14, individuals age 18 and over who are capable of consent and make a voluntary request for lethal injection can be euthanized if two doctors diagnose them as having a “grievous and irremediable medical condition.”
The law defines this as a serious and incurable illness or disability that results in an advanced state of irreversible decline in capability and causes intolerable physical or psychological suffering, and that natural death is “reasonably foreseeable.”
Katherine’s lawyers pointed out that after Jack was deemed ineligible for euthanasia in April, he then sought another assessment in July from pro-euthanasia doctors, who approved his death.
Hugh Scher, head of Katherine’s legal team, argued that “doctor shopping is a serious concern that must be addressed,” and that “court or tribunal oversight are essential in those rare cases where there are multiple conflicting medical reports over the core issue of capacity, which is an essential condition of eligibility for MAID.”
However, now that Jack has died, “it does beg the question whether or not the case has moot. And that’s being looked at right now: Is there actually still a case?” Schadenberg told LifeSiteNews.
“In fact, the question that we were asking remains valid,” he added.
“The question we were asking is, when you have multiple assessments and you’ve got a couple of assessments saying, yes, he qualifies for euthanasia and other assessments saying he does not qualify for euthanasia, how then is that property determined?” Schadenberg noted.
“As it is right now, all the law requires is that there are two assessments saying he qualifies.”
Adding to the difficulty, since Parliament resumed in late September after being prorogued in August, Justin Trudeau’s Liberal government has reintroduced Bill C-7, which will allow individuals who are not terminally ill to be euthanized.
Schadenberg, along with other critics, has warned that if Bill C-7 becomes law, Canada will have the “the most wide-open euthanasia regime in the world.”
Under the proposed Bill C-7, an individual who is not dying but is deemed to have “unbearable physical or psychological suffering” can be lethally injected after a 90-day waiting period, he told LifeSiteNews.
HD Editors Note: Why Is This News Biblically Relevant?
In 2 Timothy Chapter 3, the apostle Paul describes to us what the character of mankind would be like in the last days. These characteristics would serve as a sign that Jesus’ return is fast approaching. Among this list is a “Loss of Natural Affection,” A society is required to have this characteristic to be able to murder the weakest among them.
2 Timothy 3:1-4 KJV – “This know also, that in the last days perilous times shall come. For men shall be lovers of their own selves, covetous, boasters, proud, blasphemers, disobedient to parents, unthankful, unholy, Without natural affection, trucebreakers, false accusers, incontinent, fierce, despisers of those that are good, Traitors, heady, highminded, lovers of pleasures more than lovers of God.”
Answers in Genesis in their Article “Is Euthanasia a Biblical Solution to Terminal Illness or Suffering?” wrote:
As people around the world grapple with the issue of whether euthanasia (“mercy killing”) and physician-assisted suicide should be legal, it is the desire to retain control over our lives until the end that motivates many to push for a legal “right to die” on their own terms. When we realize that this is tantamount to asking for murder-on-demand, the sanitized sounding word euthanasia takes on its true colors.
How should we as Christians view this issue? Whatever direction the legal systems of this and other nations take—and whatever unhappy surprises our own lives may hold for us as individuals and for those we love—how can we be certain that our thinking on this issue is correct? It is quite easy to be caught up in the emotional rhetoric surrounding this subject and to be overwhelmed by emotional distress when we hear bad news from our doctors. Without a firm foundation in the Word of God, the decisions we make and the beliefs we hold about these complex issues may be swayed by emotions and governed by the fallible pronouncements of secular ethics committees or even resource utilization guidelines. Therefore, to prepare ourselves for the unexpected, it is important to base our thinking on the Word of God from the very beginning. Let’s get this straight in our minds now.
From the beginning—back in the Garden of Eden—human beings have wanted to take control of their lives. We see this in the historical account of Eve’s yielding to the serpent’s temptation to “be like God” (Genesis 3:5) and in Adam’s decision to follow her in rebellion to God.
The Bible does not condone the taking of one’s own life or euthanasia. It simply does not. God exhorts us to defend the “speechless … who are appointed to die” (Proverbs 31:8–9), not to kill them. God forbids murder (Exodus 20:13). Euthanasia—the destruction of another person’s life even to end their suffering—is a form of murder. It is wrong to do it and wrong to ask someone to do it for you. Having the choice to “shuffle off this mortal coil” through our own hand or the hand of another is not God’s plan for us. We human beings do not have the authority to make that decision for ourselves or our loved ones.
Yet despite all the appealing talk of “dying with dignity”—and who in their right mind would desire to die without dignity—suicide, even when assisted by a physician’s lethal prescription, and euthanasia—which is just a nice word for murder with a presumably merciful motive—are not acceptable options unless we are nothing more than animals.
But we are not just animals! We—every one of us—are all made in his image and therefore all human beings have lives of special value to God, so much so that Jesus Christ, God’s Son, gave his own life for us (John 3:16; 1 Corinthians 15:22; Hebrews 2:9–10). God’s account of creation recorded in the Bible is consistent with what we see in the physical world and validates his ownership of humanity and his right to set our standards. And apart from a source of truth from someone greater than man, no person’s moral judgments are more valid than another’s. Human beings have many ideas about right and wrong, but as described in the biblical book of Judges, when God’s Word is ignored, everyone does what is right in his own eyes (Judges 21:25), and that is a recipe for disaster as much now as it was during the days described in the book of Judges. Only God who created mankind is justly in a position of moral authority over all mankind.
We must not, therefore, yield the ground to those exhorting us to embrace death prematurely—much less to put subtle pressure on others to do so—but rather focus on how we live in the light of God’s truth until life’s end.
This is a complex issue, and this article is not intended to address every aspect, much less to review the legal ramifications of laws and court decisions that can change in a day. This is, instead, a reminder that we need to base our thinking on the Word of God, which never changes and can be trusted to guide us through life and death.