#34-MAID ft. Gloria Woodland, Sharon Simpson, and Lawrence Cheung

 In

Medical Assistance in Dying

 

“I don’t know if I can hold on.”

Gloria Woodland, Sharon Simpson, and Lawrence Cheung speak about how people that are considering medical assistance in dying just need someone to come alongside them and be there for them in their time of need. Throughout the conversation, each of them shares what their opinions, beliefs, and experiences are when it comes to MAID.

 

“It is challenging when people think about, you know, living long, living well. I often think about when people ask for medical assistance in dying, in a sense they did not realize there is medical assistance in living.”  – Lawrence Cheung

 

Topics Covered Include

  • Medical assistance in dying
  • Being there for people
  • Our bodies are temples of the Holy Spirit, and belong to God

 

Show Notes

 

 

BCMB Pastor to Pastor
BCMB Pastor to Pastor
#34-MAID ft. Gloria Woodland, Sharon Simpson, and Lawrence Cheung
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Transcription

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BCMB 034 - MAID A Biblical Perspective.mp3: Audio automatically transcribed by Sonix

BCMB 034 - MAID A Biblical Perspective.mp3: this mp3 audio file was automatically transcribed by Sonix with the best speech-to-text algorithms. This transcript may contain errors.

Lawrence Cheung:
They did not realize there is medical assistance in living. What I mean by that is this there are many things that we can do to help people live, even in a very limited sense well and live long, and they can still enjoy life in a decent way.

Gloria Woodland:
If I said to Lawrence, if he was my practitioner and I said to him that I wanted to have MAID, I would be assessed for MAID and then I would have a 10 day period where I would be thinking about whether this is right with me.

Sharon Simpson:
They need you to hold them. They're expecting you as the pastor to come in and invite them back into the place where they know, you know, the Holy Spirit is testifying to their spirit.

Welcome to the BCMB podcast, pastor to Pastor. This is a podcast by the British Columbia Conference of Mennonite Brethren Churches. We want to help equip and encourage pastors, churches and anyone else who wants to listen in and be more effective in their ministry. This is episode thirty four MAID a biblical perspective with Sharon Simpson, Lawrence Cheung and Gloria Woodland.

Rob Thiessen:
All right. Hey, everyone, welcome. It's Rob Thiessen. This is the BCMB pastor to pastor podcast. And as usual, we're very excited about having guests with us today to talk about issues that are relevant to the churches, to leaders in the churches, to pastors. But really, for anyone who cares to listen and we welcome you wherever you are here in British Columbia or maybe globally on the internet listening. So today our topic is medical assistance in dying and helping us to think through as Christians how we serve and also for pastors, how we teach. So pastors are involved in teaching and shepherding their churches, but also involved in caring for people who find themselves in the middle of, you know, end of life questions and MAID now is, has, has taken a major turning point in our society. So, yeah, even as we talked just before our discussion, we were talking about the government debates on this subject. So it's real time and really privileged to have these guests with us. I'm going to let them introduce themselves. But Sharon Simpson, she's been with us before. She's our BCMB moderator. Gloria Woodland, she teaches chaplaincy at our MB Seminary on the ACTS campus in Langley. And so grateful that Gloria joined us short notice, super appreciative of that. And Lawrence Cheung, who works in a chaplaincy and pastoral care stuff in our Vancouver hospitals. And so he's very involved in teaching at the university setting and interacts with administration. So he has a unique privilege and perspective. So, Lawrence, why don't you start us off, tell us a little bit about your, especially, my question is always tell us about the faith community that shaped you and and how the Lord has brought you to this place.

Lawrence Cheung:
It's a long story. Thank you, Pastor Rob, and so I won't spend too much time on my own story. But let me just begin by saying that I'm speaking today as an individual anabaptist, and I do not speak for my present affiliations, including Providence Health Care, UBC School of Medicine and the Canadian Association for Spiritual Care. I grew up at the Pacific Grace MB family here in B.C. and I was called to vocational ministry and my actually my first degree was on Religious Education and Mission and I thought I was going to be a missionary. But God has other ideas. And I still remember my first day working as a young pastor. My senior asked me to come along, to Vancouver General, to visit somebody and I have to admit, I didn't enjoy that at all as I thought it was a boring part of the ministry. And I, we call on the ride back from the hospital to the church and I said this prayer in the car and I said, Lord, I would do anything for you, but not hospital chaplaincy work. And so of course,

Lawrence Cheung:
as we all know, these prayers often go unanswered very quickly. A few years down the road, I was I was at a, at a cross road from where I thought, should I continue with pastoral work within a church setting or should I be, you know, doing something else for the Lord? And and he gave me an epiphany. And that was very clear that I was called to a medical chaplaincy. And so I entered into training both with the Mennonite Brethren Seminary, as well as the CPE, which is what we know as Clinical Pastoral Education. And then the last 13 years, I have been blessed by a couple of my trust families, both urban journey for a good four, five years. I was part of that process of church planting a UBC and they've been affirming my gifts and spiritual care and my present Killarney Park MB family very supportive. They they offer continuous fellowship and prayer support, my current road right now, and I work for Providence Health Care and so mainly at St. Paul's Hospital in Vancouver, B.C. And my specialty is palliative care and mythology.

Lawrence Cheung:
I also have a teaching role with UBC School of Medicine in the Palliative Division as an adjunct faculty.

Rob Thiessen:
Excellent. Oh, that's great. So great that you take time to join us today, Lawrence, really appreciate that. Gloria.

Gloria Woodland:
Yeah, I'm really glad to be here. My faith journey has really been impacted by several communities. My father was a pastor, so we had a few churches growing up and different faith communities that supported me.

Gloria Woodland:
But I think particularly when I think about how I was significantly formed, I think about what I refer to now as my spiritual parents, who, when I was a teenager, were members of my father's congregation but knew I needed somebody other than my father to speak into my spiritual life. And they took me under their wing. And I am most grateful for that because that was the beginning within me of being affirmed as a child of God who had a purpose and a mission to accomplish. And that was the start of that. And I'm very grateful for that. My husband and I for a number of years have been in ministry, congregational ministry, and then things began to shift and change a bit in our lives. And I've ended up now at the university and I'm at MB Seminary and I'm very grateful for being there. My role at the seminary is as the director of the chaplaincy program, as you've already mentioned. And I am grateful to have the interaction of my fellow faculty members at the seminary and they now speak into my life as we journeyed together as a seminary team. We're able to speak into each other's life. And I'm grateful for the way that they're supportive of what God still has for me to do.

Rob Thiessen:
Mmm hmm. That's great. Thanks. Thanks so much for joining us, Gloria. I really appreciate it. Sharon, this is not, this is your second time on the podcast for a much different topic, but.

Sharon Simpson:
Yeah, yeah. So I work as the director of Community Enrichment at Menno place which is a campus of care for seven hundred seniors. Three hundred and fifty of those seniors are in long term care and one hundred in assisted living. And the remaining 250 are independent living apartments. The community of faith that that for my life is in Chilliwack, Eden Mennonite Church, that is in the Mennonite Church Canada Conference. And, and I grew up in there and then went to UBC and began to learn more about life. But perhaps the most jarring part of my experience was around my younger brother's cancer journey and his death and and some of the experiences that I had in as a as a family member. When he passed away, I was twenty two. He was 20. I was so grateful that I grew up in a family with my father was a surgeon, and there was certainly no censorship of conversation at our table around anything medical or any of the ethics that surrounded it. And so I grew up in that kind of environment where we had an opportunity to talk freely and openly and and and certainly about, a lot about death. I think that that really gave me a way of being around that and and particularly having walked with alongside my brother in those in those days when he died. I think that that that there's something very powerful about coming from a faith perspective that gives us people of faith a different and a complementary set of views and conversation.

Sharon Simpson:
I guess we'll talk about that a little bit more. I'm almost 10 years on staff here at a Menno Place. And in my time here, I became the the president of the Canadian Mennonite Health Assembly, which is an assembly of Mennonite health organizations across Canada, founded all in about the the 50s and 60s, and primarily to care for the elderly. And so I've been the president of that association for four or five years. And we've taken a journey specifically looking at MAID as a group of Mennonite health care providers to come up with policy and statements and application. So that that, I think, is maybe the place where this intersects a little bit more closely. Obviously, we are a seniors care home and we have me we have a MAID statement and and we we tell everybody in their in their move in process about that statement so that they can be prepared for where where we take a stand on that.

Rob Thiessen:
Yeah, that's really helpful, Sharon. And I can just imagine having a father as a surgeon, like you said, and open conversations, just from what I know of you, that must have been a powerful influence on your life. Sort of, it adds a dose of reality, a sobering reality into every conversation, right?

Sharon Simpson:
Yeah. And then I worked in his office, too. That was another that was another onn, another way to really see how people live and suffer. And and and yeah, my dad was a very compassionate man. He put a, put into place a counseling group that was in the office beside him and made the provision to make that possible for people to get counseling because he was bringing the bad news and needed, you know, knew that people would need support, which I'm sure we'll talk about as we as we get into this.

Rob Thiessen:
Yeah, well, that's great. And you introduced a question that I had, just how medical assistance in dying, which is our topic today. And it's interesting. It's even when you think about how that that is sort of title has evolved over the number of years. Right. Used to be medically assisted suicide or whatever.

Sharon Simpson:
Physician assisted suicide, just maybe five years ago or four years ago.

Rob Thiessen:
So it's obviously changed radically in its place. And Lawrence, I'm just going to ask you quickly for an overview of how this intersects in your work. I mean, in some ways it's obvious you're working in a hospital and pastoral care. But but how live of an issue is this? Is this something that you you encounter weekly, monthly? For you, how how is this intersecting your day to day ministry?

Lawrence Cheung:
I don't keep the stats, but I think for the longest time, we especially, not just in a political setting, but in general, in hospital settings or even in long term care, where I used to work when actually work for Gloria years ago at Fraser Health. We always get people coming to us and asked, can you help us die? And that's a loaded question. So it's, it's not a new thing in many ways.

Lawrence Cheung:
Even Sharon alluded to the distance like four or five years ago. The amendment of the criminal code was around two thousand and seventeen. I met my first MAID patient around, I think if I'm correct, in January, two thousand and seventeen.

Lawrence Cheung:
And so it, it has, it's been I would say I am involved in this conversation almost on a weekly basis.

Lawrence Cheung:
Now, it doesn't mean that everybody would go for the provision, but is very much a, if I can say a regular part of the discussion when it comes to people's perception of the options for care in health care. And this is not excluding people. I should say. This is not just for people that have no religious faith. A huge amount of people, I would say about 30 percent of the people that that I encounter and on MAID discussions are actually people of faith, including evangelicals.

Rob Thiessen:
Oh, that's helpful. Gloria, you and I were talking a little bit beforehand. You quoted me some statistics from a different denomination as to how many how frequently their pastors were encountering this subject. Can you just share with listeners what you told me.

Gloria Woodland:
Over a one year period, so just one year and MAID has been legal for four years, roughly. Over a one year period, pastors were engaged in some form of conversation regarding MAID four hundred times. So that could be where they've been called to a bedside, called to support a family member, called to support someone in their congregation maybe whose neighbor is choosing MAID. So in various different ways, four hundred times, pastors within that denomination had been contacted in a one year span.

Rob Thiessen:
Right. And, you know, just another thing for context, for a conversation. That the federal government is currently debating the laws and policies around there, there are a lot of adjustments, including on hitching the necessary, that it's not necessarily related to disease. It could just be quality of life issues, maybe. Talk to us a little bit, Gloria, about where that sat. Others could weigh in as well and specifically why that's a game changer. Why why pastors across the board should be aware that this is going to, like no pastor is going to be exempt from dealing with this issue.

Gloria Woodland:
No, there's a few specific points that they want to have changed within the current MAID standing and within the MAID laws that are in place right now. One is for advanced planning, so that I right now could decide that if anything happens to me and I get in a certain state that I want to have MAID and I can have that drawn up as the legal document. So advanced planning for MAID. Which means if I lose my ability to speak and I've changed my mind about MAID, I don't know how I'm going to get to tell you that I don't want it anymore. But that's one of the risks that are involved with it, with a change. But the change is so that I could advance plan. Another change that they're looking at is to do with mental health so that I wouldn't have to have what they call the previous illness where death is immediately in the foreseeable future, but that my mental health could be causing me to suffer. And so in the depths of depression, I could say I have had enough and I could select to have MAID and to finish my life in the depths of depression. Another thing that they're looking at doing is removing the ten days period of reflection.

Gloria Woodland:
So right now, if I said to Lawrence if he was my my practitioner and I said to him that I wanted to have MAID I would be assessed for MAID and then I would have a ten day period where I would be thinking about whether this is right with me, which would give me time to talk to Lawrence as a chaplain and see how it sits with my values and my belief systems. How it, I would be able to speak with my physician and with my family and consider it from all the angles. Removal of that ten days means I can have MAID without having time for personal reflection and consideration. And, you know, when I think about that, I think about how as a young married couple my husband and I were told never to make a big purchase without sleeping on it, without thinking about it overnight. And so if I said I wanted a new stereo, I would have to think about that a bit. Do I really want a new stereo and can I afford a new stereo? But yet now when we think about MAID, we're saying I don't have to reflect on that. I can just choose to have medical assistance to death.

Rob Thiessen:
Is there an, is there an age limit like for for a person? How young could a person be to request this?

Gloria Woodland:
18.

Rob Thiessen:
18. OK, so. Go ahead, Lawrence.

Lawrence Cheung:
Sorry to interrupt. At this point, there's no I mean, again, you have to be you have to be an adult. You have to be 18 plus for, for that. But that had been some discussions, not officially regarding pediatric depravation. That is not something new. Has been in the background for a while. One thing I would add on top of what Gloria has said is there's also a push right now for the final consent of the patient. And in the current law, which is amended a few years ago called Bill C-14, the patient had to get consent just before what we call a provision position of the of the with the act, which is often done by injection of drug through IV access of a patient. Right now, the discussion is, this is going to be waived. So you can actually get an advance directive on that. And you don't have to give a consent because what if you're not able to get consent by the time that you want that provision to happen? So that's not a push that is actually quite, quite dangerous, if I may say.

Rob Thiessen:
Hmm, let's uh. Go ahead.

Sharon Simpson:
Well, I just think about, like, how people feel about the idea of living in a long term care home. And like, there's obviously lots of different scenarios for this advanced planning and making a decision like that. But many people just do not want to be unable to function as themself and live with dementia and be part of a community where they're being fully cared for. And I think that for us, looking at that, it it sets, in contrast, somehow the kind of way that we do care, you know, and and and there hasn't been a lot of good media representation of the kind of compassionate and competent care that is available, the benefits to a person and their family because we represent long term care or dementia. And I'm not saying it isn't a really difficult journey for family and the individual, but it really doesn't get any contrasting representation in our media. And and so for myself, I'm always thinking about how we can help people understand. The full picture of what of what care is for somebody who needs it in that kind of a situation.

Rob Thiessen:
Yeah, talk a little bit, Sharon, about the situation that you encounter with your residents and what is the impact of MAID on, on folks who are who are seniors in a care facility and on the families. Like you, sort of boots on the ground, what what do you think are are things that concern you about how this kind of legislation impacts people, the people that are your residents and their families?

Sharon Simpson:
So we have a statement at Menno Place that is a conscientious objection, organizational conscientious objection. So we are not providing MAID. So I'm not seeing it. There are people that have discussions could now in Covid it's a bit trickier. But could a doctor come in and perform MAID for somebody? I think they could and are in our care home without the knowledge of us around. But it doesn't it's not coming up in that way. I think what what has been really striking to me in this time of Covid I've been responsible for supervising the safe visit program, which was put into place by the B.C. government in July, and that is that we bring a loved one, one designated person to visit with their their loved one, and they have to be six feet apart and all of these other things. But it's a supervised visit and which feels very uncomfortable to be in a middle of that visit for a family that are having their loved one, having time together. It's kind of awkward. What I have seen and that is the incredible emotional bonds from both sides of the table, the loved one and the person who has dementia. And and at first I was very anxious for my staff about bringing people from our behavioral unit where that would be where the dementia is also at a place of violence or unpredictability into a visit. And it's just been so special and tender to see. And, it's not yeah, it's not what people necessarily expect, and I'm not trying to make it better than it is, this is a this is an illness that's really, really brings a lot of grief and sadness. But there is something very, very special in bonding there between people. It's not like life is over. Life is changed.

Rob Thiessen:
How do you how to our care homes, care facilities and caregivers, how does this changing law, like what kind of pressure does it put them on? Especially like Sharon, you're seeing you as an organization, you have this conscientious objection position. Lawrence, you work more in the public system. I know that Tabor here and other care homes that maybe receive funding from the government, there's pressure coming. What, what does that look like and feel like for people?

Sharon Simpson:
Maybe I can start because I just was talking about the the way our statement about it at Menno. But at Menno Place, I mean, people couldn't really qualify before this change. So it's not like there's people that could in their, in their, in the middle of their dementia, then make a choice like they were not able to do that. So the biggest piece that's changing here is that they can do an advanced planning piece that would be the biggest change. So there's there's really been no person able to do that up to date. So that would be a game changer for people. Yeah.

Rob Thiessen:
So then if somebody moves into your facility and that's on their, in their paperwork, that that creates a dilemma for you.

Sharon Simpson:
Yeah, I mean, I, I mean, there's a group of us that belong to the Denominational Health Association in British Columbia, a group of care homes. And those would be care homes that have been faith based for, since their founding. Christian, Muslim, Jewish care homes. Those are the primary primary groups that are members. And and we've all got the same belief about the sanctity of life and the desire to have conscientious objection to that. So this will be the first time that that that's going to be confronted. Up until now, we've been able to, we are, we have to assess the person if they choose MAID and they and they are cognitively able to make that choice and then provide a transfer to a place where they can receive MAID that's been the system to date. So it might be that that system continues on. But I know there's people in our faith community who are not pleased with the idea that we even provide an assessment. But that's not a place of choice for us.

Rob Thiessen:
Yeah, Lawrence, you work in hospitals in different settings. Is there is this can you can you share something of your perspective from this?

Lawrence Cheung:
And it's hard for, and I'm saying this not just for my own brothers and sisters within our Evangelical Christian tradition, but also my friends, the Jewish and Islamic and and other faith background, with other faith backgrounds they hold the same sort of stand on sanctity of life. And the reality is, there's very little work on conscientious objections out there right now. You, when you work for a care provider, when as a health care authority or a little care home, you know, most people have to sort of follow the rules that the facility has. So you would give an example. And these are real examples. I had I had I had a Christian doctor who worked in and in palliative care and and she had to quit because she said, I cannot stand having somebody, one of her patients. We see a provision of MAID in her facility. I have another I have another person who's who is a pharmacist and who was working at the dispensary. And he knew when he was working on the orders, he knew the drug that he is about to process is for MAID. And so how do you how do you face the pressure? How do you face these challenges of safeguarding your your ethical standard as as a follower of Christ and from our perspective and not being complicit in the work that you do, but also being faithful to the work that you call to do in your very profession. And these are real challenges because there isn't a lot of support, I have to admit, for them.

Gloria Woodland:
And conscientious objection is one of the things that is being attacked right now with this new legislation that physicians won't be able to say no, that other health care workers won't be able to say no.

Rob Thiessen:
I think this topic is really relevant for for all of our pastors and leaders in churches, because there are doctors and health care workers, and care home workers, and palliative care workers here, nurses who are out there wrestling with these issues. So this is another indication of why it's important to address and support and then come alongside people, because it's a significant pressure. Let's talk a little bit about the the pastor then who was invited or asked by the family to come alongside. And family is wrestling. Maybe it's family members. Maybe it's it's, you know, an elderly couple and a widow widower themselves, struggling with health issues, whatever. And they are they are inclined towards and maybe they make a decision to to have MAID how, how does how does a pastor engage with that? Is the right choice to to bow out like the doctor did for their convictions, to say I can't be a part of it? Or is there a way in which a pastor could still faithfully represent the gospel, the presence of Christ to be the light of Christ in that situation? I know this is a tough thing and there may be isn't a black and white answer. But, Gloria, how have you been thinking about this and how do you encourage and train pastors in this care area?

Gloria Woodland:
The first thing I think that's important that needs to be said is that the pastor can make the choice. Yes, maybe somebody is going to say "Oh for good pastoral care, we're going to go alongside and we're going to journey with this." But if the pastor is not comfortable with that, they need to have the option of saying, I cannot do this and maybe make a phone call and find a friend who will come in and be willing to journey with this individual or with this family. There's no black and white of, seminary teaches us we must journey with. You know, what we want to teach them is that they have to do what's right for them, between them and God.

Rob Thiessen:
So yeah, and I think for our pastors to Gloria, a decision like that would probably need to be processed with the community, right. If a pastor is going to go out, he needs to or she needs to talk with their their their leaders, their board, their community.

Gloria Woodland:
I will tell you one example that I can give. They will be called when there is not time to draw the committees together.

Rob Thiessen:
Right. Right. Right.

Gloria Woodland:
I know, I know of a pastor who received a call from someone very far removed from the church, but yet affiliated that said, could you come our families in crisis? And that's all they were told. And when they got there, MAID was being performed at home.

Rob Thiessen:
Wow. Ok.

Gloria Woodland:
And the doctor had already arrived, but the person who was having MAID insisted on having a preacher present, was how it was was worded. And so that pastor had no time to draw a committee and ask, should I be involved. They are having to make decisions, immediately. "Do I stay in journey with this individual and with this family?" And so do they stay at the bedside during the procedure? Do they say I'll just step out now and allow this to happen and I'll be here to support your family? There's a lot that has to be has to be worked out. Yeah. And I think it's really important for people who are going to be doing ministry in a time of MAID to think through what is their theological position to be comfortable with their theological position and to think in advance about what their response is going to be when they get that call, because they will get it.

Rob Thiessen:
Mm hmm. Yeah.

Sharon Simpson:
And I think a good part of that journey, like in preparing yourself for that, is to find the people who you worship with who are actually having to address this. Like, I think that a lot has has been impactful to me when I hear doctors, Christian doctors seeking faithful and like what Lawrence said, a pharmacist, nurses, people who have

Gloria Woodland:
Even the housekeepers.

Sharon Simpson:
Right. Who are. And so I would I would encourage that pastor to start having conversations with people in their community who are who are right there in the thick of it and make it make it an environment where they're allowed to speak as it is for them and not what they think the pastor needs to hear so that they can really hear what it feels like to be in that particular place because they're not going to be there until, like Gloria said, last minute phone call or something like that. And have those conversations with their board and other leaders in their church long before they get the last minute phone call. How are we dealing with this?

Gloria Woodland:
I, I also think that there needs to be conversations with the board in advance and there also needs to be a time of teaching. Whether it's from the pulpit or whether it's in small study groups, this issue needs to be addressed in the church. We know that over 70 percent of Christians when polled have said they they're fine with MAID. And so if 70 percent of Christians are saying we're fine with MAID, why are they saying that? We have a very clear theology. Article 14 says ultimate decisions reflecting life and death belong to God. We know about the sanctity of life. We need to teach this to our people on a regular basis so that they know their position and can understand when they get that phone call from Ipsos-Reid saying, what do you think about this? This is a serious matter.

Rob Thiessen:
I think both you, Sharon and Gloria just touched on a few really useful tools for for those of our listeners who are involved in a, have a teaching responsibility and maybe have been reluctant to to tackle this one or maybe there's some fatigue about issues, because honestly, I what I think about pastoring a church in our time is like issue fatigue is real. You know, if it isn't this, it's some other massive question, difficult question, gender identity, you name it, that people are wrestling with.

Rob Thiessen:
So, Sharon, you mentioned the importance of involving the community, those who are like other believers who are in the front lines here of this work, that's a valuable resource for any pastor wanting to preach and communicate this. Take it out of the area of just some theory or saying, well, I'm just going to try to stand up here and solve the problem, like the, let the community speak. Let the Holy Spirit, who is working with real issues, speak that that's powerful. Gloria, you mentioned just go back to first principles. What what does the word teach about these things? Is it it it's you know, the Bible may not have a chapter on M-A-I-D. But it but it's it is addressed in scripture and so discerning there. Any anything else you'd like to say? And Lawrence, you could weigh in as well to help, like how would what a what a shepherd effectively teach. Let's say it is Sunday morning preaching on on this subject. What would you recommend?

Lawrence Cheung:
Going back to some of the earlier point regarding so how do we face this, you know, and being a pastor, even though I don't work for a church and my role gives me access to all kinds of situations that most pastors don't face. But I was thinking about, this as much more than a theological issue and as a pastoral response issue. And and often, you know, we don't have the right answer. As Gloria said, it's not as simple as right and wrong. And I would encourage pastors, as you're listening to this, you know, if you get caught into something like this at 1:00 a.m. in the morning or while probably not 1:00 a.m. in the morning, but, you know, on a weekend and you have no idea this is happening, I and I often ask my students to think about this as they learn about what it means to do clinical chaplaincy. And the question is, what is absolutely not negotiable for you right now as a pastoral giver? You know, you may have a position on this specific issue in bioethics, but what is the need right now and what can you do as you know, the hands and feet of Christ in this situation that you may not agree with everything that's going on? And so it all depends on how comfortable you are pastorally and individually in terms of how you believe an intervention can support the family.

Lawrence Cheung:
Doesn't mean that you agree with every single thing. And on the other hand, you're free to take a stand. This is where I am and this is what I believe. I have patients ask me, I, their going for the position and they ask me, why do I come see them? Like, you don't agree with what I do and why do you come see me? I said, Well, because I care about you. Just because you choose something that I do not agree with does not mean that I don't care for you. And that is in many ways that is the essence of that ministry, and that is to be there for people when it comes to teaching. I want to touch on a couple of things. I think it's important whether it is on an Sunday morning setting or in a Christian education setting, I'm hoping and that remains to be my hope, that we will be more intentional on teaching bioethics in a in a in a congregational setting, whether it is in seminars, whether it is in in a Sunday school format. I mean, I know we cannot do very much right now. There's no in-person service. Very much in our in our DNA as Anabaptist dignity and hospitality is a huge thing. And now theology.

Lawrence Cheung:
And I think we have something to offer as Anabaptist on both, you know, sort of from the Beatitudes perspective, but also from bioethics perspective. And I think we can teach stuff and that's our specialty.

Gloria Woodland:
I think Lawrence is saying what Lawrence is saying is really that full expansion of Article 14 where we're saying, yes, life matters. And then the last part of Article 14 after saying, you know, life and death is in God's hands, it says, we will seek to offer hope and healing and support and counsel in the context of our Christian community. How do we do that with those who are either impacted by MAID or those who are requesting MAID if we've never thought this through? And so if we're going to come alongside and witness the compassion of Christ, which is what we want to do. We want them to see God's compassion as we come along side while they make decisions. We need to think in advance.

Rob Thiessen:
Yeah. Yeah. And, you know, one of the dilemmas that pastors and indeed all like Christians struggle with this is that, you know, we maybe we adopt a position or we feel constrained. This is the ethical choice that we're committed to. And but then we, that conviction then somehow causes us to act in a judgemental way to those towards they they disagree with us. And we think somehow, as soon as we're around those people who are not aligned with us in our thinking, we other those people and and then Christians will do this. And I'm sure it's the work of the enemy. But we we're always looking over our shoulder thinking, well, what are the other Christians think that I'm doing if I'm touching these people? And of course, as soon as we say it like that, we realize that that's just the exact opposite of what Jesus did. You know, he held his stance, his purity in every circumstance, but it never he never shied away from from touching and being with the people at the others called sinners. And and so, you know, I know in my life and I've shared that with people. So I get in these situations and I and I worry also what am I representing? What am I communicating? And then on reflection, later, I think, oh, my word what a what a narrow, shallow process of thinking. I'm with people and I have an opportunity to share the love of Christ. Why wouldn't I focus on that? Everyone knows what I stand for. People people know what you believe. And so but I think it's teaching the church in advance that this is how we're going to approach this. We have convictions about it. This is what they are. But we our hands are not tied. We are not powerless. And the message of the gospel, the presence of Christ, the Holy Spirit in us will give us what we need in those moments.

Rob Thiessen:
So, yeah, just an encouragement to the pastors along that. I think I really love what you're saying. Just reminded about the way the Scriptures really Jesus talked about the Holy Spirit. He said when he comes, he'll lead you into all truth, like there won't be a situation that shows up that he won't have the word for you to give. So just stick close and hard to imagine that we we find ourselves in such a time. But here we are.

Sharon Simpson:
I think, Rob, as I'm listening to you, I remember the very first visit that Gary and I did when he became a pastor, say, 18 years ago. Before that, we were in a different kind of Christian ministry and we were called to come in and visit an elderly man who was dying in hospital. And Gary says to me, my husband is Gary, Gary says to me, "I can't go alone, Sharon. I can't do this. I've never done it." We've never done a visit like this. Never, neither of us. And I'm sure he didn't get that training when he took his schooling a long time ago.

Sharon Simpson:
And so we went together and this man who had been a pillar of faith and I mean, in the most in the most in the way that I would love to model my own life, like not just in practice, but in every not just in leadership, but in every aspect of his life. And he says to us, "How do you know if this is true?" What's this question? We're holding his hand, how do you know if this is true? You're at the end of your life, you've given your life to Christ? I was like, I don't know what to say to this man. This, so we just found scripture, we read scripture, and we affirm that this is a faith. You know, the Holy Spirit testifies to your spirit. And so that was just like such a strange thing for me when we left and Gary and I talked about it and said what we were doing there was we were just holding up a brother. We, he'd held many people up for many years in his life, but we just needed to hold up that man in that moment. And and I think that, you know, as pastors are thinking about somebody and even in their congregation is talking about MAID or thinking about this, the role of holding up your, your sheep, they need you to hold them, and for some, it might mean that they waver between the decisions and and that's their journey. But but they're expecting you as the pastor to come in and invite them back into the place where they know the Holy Spirit is testifying to their spirit. And I think I think about my dad.

Sharon Simpson:
He suffered for years with multiple sclerosis. He was extremely depressed portions of that journey. He would be the the exact person that would have the easiest preplanned choice for MAID because those degenerative neurological disorders are like, you know, who wants one? Nobody wants that. But I remember going into his room, which was in my parent's home, and these are a hospital bed. And I told him that one of my boys was getting baptized and my dad just wept. He just lay there and just wept and wept. And at many times he had said to me, I don't know if I can hold on.

Sharon Simpson:
Like, I don't know if my faith can do this. And I don't know if I'm a believer. I don't know what my strength is like. He was just in those places. And I said to him when he was weeping over my son getting baptized, I said, you know, people who aren't believers don't cry about this stuff, Dad, like it's the Holy Spirit and your spirit, they are, he's testifying to your spirit through this particular thing, this particular idea. And I think that we have that shepherding privilege with people in our our congregations and to not shy away just because they're saying, I can't I don't think I can do it. How many people have I heard say and I think it's just the worst thing to say, but it's common saying, "Take me out to the back forty and shoot me before you put me in a care home." And I think, really? Like that's all illegal and wrong. But they're saying, I don't have it in me. I would rather be killed than go to that next spot, that next step.

Gloria Woodland:
And it's scary.

Sharon Simpson:
What's that?

Gloria Woodland:
The unknown is very scary. Whether it's the unknown of the care home or whether it's the unknown of going on to death. It's scary. And if we can find an easy way out, many of us will take it.

Sharon Simpson:
Yeah. But I...

Rob Thiessen:
Lawrence. You go ahead.

Rob Thiessen:
Sharon, you gonna finish that thought?

Sharon Simpson:
Lawrence can talk for a while. I can come back.

Rob Thiessen:
Where you going to, did you have something there to add, Lawrence?

Lawrence Cheung:
It is challenging when people think about, you know, living long, living well. I often think about what when people ask for medical assistance in dying, in a sense they did not realize there is medical assistance in living. And what I mean by that is this, there are many things that we can do to help people live, even in a very limited sense, you live well and live long, and they can still enjoy life in a different way.

Rob Thiessen:
Yeah.

Lawrence Cheung:
And palliative care is one of those things. And unfortunately, as we all know, only one in six Canadians, roughly 15 percent who die at home, in two thousand sixteen and seventeen we see palliative care support. 30 percent of Canadians in overall in Canada have adequate access to any form of palliative care. So when people are ill, they think about, I do not like this dying process. I just want to fast forward this to my eternal discharge. And I have people that have said this to me. I mean, these are these are Christians and they say right now I'm in hell. I cannot wait until this is done. So I'm in the presence of God. And I can understand that the stress that they go through because we have never died before.

Lawrence Cheung:
So it's really hard for us to understand the suffering that people go through. And I'm not even talking about MS or ALS, these really tricky medical conditions that that really robs the dignity of the person while the person is still very much alive and a lot of suffering. So, these are challenges.

Rob Thiessen:
Yeah. Yeah. And one of the things that I think many people wrestle with, too, is with with the technological advancements, the medicine, medical advancements, we're prolonging life. We're fighting off disease. So so this gets stretched out for for many, many people, whereas maybe in the past people would have so they would have not survive to to these ages and experiences. So that's a complicating factor that maybe you could address a little bit, because obviously, you know, life support and a decision to say don't keep me alive is not the same decision as medical assistance in dying. So maybe you could address that, the distinction between those two and like a not resuscitate order. And and the other thing that maybe people wrestle with, and I've heard it, too, it's like, well, what about, you know, seems a little crazy, but Christians with their convictions about, you know, well, you know, my grandmother might get addicted to the opioids that that they're giving her in palliative care. So, you know, I think there's an easy answer to that or maybe it's not so easy. I don't know that maybe you could address the, what about cannabis? Oh, my word. You know, my grandparents are using pot. What's what's the Christian answer to these issues?

Rob Thiessen:
There's a lot of chuckling going on here in the podcast.

Lawrence Cheung:
The DNA of status is difficult. You know, the do not resuscitate status. And I can tell you at one point there were seven different forms in B.C. within the local area on do not resuscitate status. And so it's very confusing for people.

Rob Thiessen:
Sure.

Lawrence Cheung:
I, I have people that have said I don't want to I don't want I don't want any resuscitation. Is that a bad thing? Because I'm a Christian and and I often engage in this conversation as much as always more than just a, you know, does Jesus want that. That kind of question is all about, you know, what do you value in your life? What is important to you? How would you like to continue? What are the risks and benefits as you choose a an option, whether it is to receive full resuscitation and Catholics are known for that, actually. They do not, they want everything to be done because they want to experience the pain of Jesus on a cross. Whereas you you also get other people that go, I don't want to experience that. I just want to keep me really peaceful passing as much as possible. The advances as in medical technology is really helping us live long.

Lawrence Cheung:
But the problem is, because we're so used to living well and we forgot that we're mortal beings. And the reality is one day every single one of us will die. Mortality for humankind is one hundred percent. Whether you are twenty five years old or eighty five, eighty five years old. When it comes to opioids, maybe I'll see a little bit more on the cannabis because people often have very major concerns how a lot of concerns about cannabis or other forms of opioids. Right now, there's a lot of usage of cannabis in palliative care setting, especially what we call CBD, which is commonly known as cannabis oil. There's a lot of research on it. And but I can tell you, CBD is very effective with anxiety, seizure and major pain. It just like other forms of traditional medicine. It varies. And in fact, when it comes to the effects on individuals, the addictive nature, yes, there's a certain degree of but the adictive nature of CBD. But then when you look at the greater context in people, if you are in a pretty dire straits situation in the health care and this is helping you, I don't think that's a major concern for Christians using cannabis oil.

Rob Thiessen:
Yeah, Gloria or Sharon, any thoughts on on these topics that you want to add to it?

Gloria Woodland:
I think it's important for us to remember that what we think of as the high has been removed. And so we are applying the medication, not the high.

Rob Thiessen:
OK, that's good.

Sharon Simpson:
I'll never forget one of my dear friends, he was palliative. He was dying from a pretty aggressive cancer in his late 70s. He had left the church that he grew up, a Mennonite church that he grew up in. He had left it early in his life and his relationship, he and his wife, their relationship with my husband and I was deep friendship and and a very opposite in our viewpoints about life. Well, he called us to come over to his house one day to show us how he was vaping marijuana. He said a pastor should see this. A pastor, a pastor should absolutely see this. And I think he was really like he liked to poke and prod and try and get a reaction on us and stuff. Very provocative man. And you know what? I think he was just shocked that we didn't really care. And I just I think I think in this, it's just interesting. I mean, we've made it an illegal drug and it has it is a it is not something I want my children to be doing. You want to have a clear mind and be able to live your life and not be controlled by addictions. But when you're in your end of life time, I, I just think comfort matters a lot. Pain, pain management matters a lot. And to get those pieces working and functioning for you, it gives you a quality of life that you can continue on in conversations and whatnot.

Sharon Simpson:
For for a number of years, I did a radio show at the Vancouver Co-op Radio with there were five of us that hosted the show and it was just solely on death and dying. And at that time, I had a wonderful opportunity to to interview one of the doctors from palliative care at UBC Medical School. And she she was talking about pain management and particularly management of pain in the bowels.

Sharon Simpson:
And, you know, I just thought that I thought, you know, to get to the point where we're talking about and we all know from our own experiences the importance of a bowel system that that is is functional and how it can be excruciatingly painful. She was just talking about just dealing with that one piece, constipation or diarrhea or a combination for a patient being like taking them from a place of despairing to a place of managing and being able to be contributing again in in relationships and in in conversation and hopefulness for their life.

Sharon Simpson:
And so I think I think that Lawrence has said one of the points that and, and Gloria as well, but one of the points that is most powerful for Christians coming out of these conversations is what is our role in providing the palliative care end of life experience.

Sharon Simpson:
That is at a point where the person who wants that medical assistance in dying is having such a good, manageable experience with the spiritual supports around it, that they that they are not inclined to ever, you know, go for it. When do I want to have it? And I mean, there are people who are, I know, in excruciating pain and not trying to generalize. I'm not trying to overgeneralize, but fear. There's real pieces of fear around pain or experience, and there's existential pieces of fear. And those are the pieces that as believers, we have opportunity to step into the existential pieces. And I know my age group compared to my mother's age group. So I'm in my my mid 50s, my mother's age group that they all saw at some point a dead body in the Judeo Christian funeral process or whatever, and even family photos around the open casket. My, my age group, there's many of my peers who have never seen a dead body. They don't that we don't have the the funerals of change and we don't have full funerals with viewings and exetera, exetera. It just takes all of the death and dying into place of the unknown and mystery. And and so one of the gifts we give in the Christian community, and we do give it through some of our songs and are our preaching is normalcy of dying. That is one of the gifts that we offer to our our next generations and those around us. And that that people who do not worship in a faith community or in a Christian community where they're singing about end of life and when Christ returns or when I go home or those kinds of concepts, they don't have that kind of normalcy around it and it can be terrifying, it's a gift we receive in our faith community and it's a gift we will also give.

Rob Thiessen:
Yeah, you know, we're going to wrap up around around where you've just let us share and but listening to a podcast recently with Tim Keller, Dr. Tim Keller, who's got pancreatic cancer, he's been going through treatments for that. So they're asking him questions about how he's been reflecting on his journey through that. And he said that he and Kathy recognized that through their life, the way they have been living their life, they had been trying to make their life be heaven. So they were always setting their goals. And then the next thing for Tim, it was his next accomplishment, his next ministry assignment, the book he was writing. He would relax, he would be happy. After that was done, he would feel complete for his wife, Kathy, it was some vacation or somewhere where they were going. And he said when when he got the sort of the death sentence of pancreatic cancer, he said, we stop trying to make this life heaven. And we started thinking that heaven will come and this life doesn't have to be heaven for me. And he said the funny thing about that was that once they did that, they started actually enjoying their life more like he said. Now little things become a big deal, like a meal together opportunity with their family sitting on the porch, looking over the the river there. He lives in New York. And and he said these things. He said since he let go of the expectation that this life should meet all his needs and acknowledge that there was heaven to come, he felt freer to actually enjoy this life and have more meaningful day by day existence. So that's a strange, was a strange and surprising consequence to him. And I think that's what you're saying is helping, when we as a community, the knowledge of heaven is so important.

Rob Thiessen:
And just as a final word to our listeners, one of the areas that we haven't really addressed a whole lot, but like young people and families are being swept along now, this is popular and it feels like a no brainer. Why not help people alleviate their suffering? And I know for me, one of the things that I was looking at recently was the work that Nancy Piercey does in her lectures on the body and in referring to what the scriptures say, that our bodies belong to the Lord, our bodies are the temple of the Holy Spirit. Our bodies are a gift from God and the way in our secular society, the body is looked at as just a tool to manipulate and use and enjoy at my pleasure and will and we sort of separate it. We go like, well, whatever satisfies or meets my my personal needs and wants, that gives I have authority to use my body whichever way. And for Christians is like, no, actually you, mind, spirit and body are created by God for a purpose. And and so not at the beginning of life, not at the end of life and not even in between life, do you have like personal autonomy to do whatever you want with the body that God gave you? It has a purpose. And and actually all fulfillment and hope is found in that. So, yeah, there's a lot to think about in this subject. Thank you all for this hour that you gave to to sit and help equip our churches and our pastors and leaders, all of our listeners. And to everybody out there, thanks for spending an hour with us on the BCMB podcast. We'll look forward to next time. And again, thank you all. To those of you there on the front lines here, the Lord bless you and just continue to shine his light and love through you where you are. Gloria, last word. I wanted to let people know there's a course available to right? Through the seminary, ACTS seminary.

Gloria Woodland:
Yeah, we've just finished our first go around of a course on MAID understanding the perspectives and ministry in MAID. And we will be able to offer the course again. And if there's a group of people who are interested in suitable to be used not just as a university or a seminary course, but it can be done in a small group format.

Rob Thiessen:
So which website, which website where they go to for that?

Gloria Woodland:
They can go to mbseminary.ca, and there's also recordings on that website as well regarding MAID.

Rob Thiessen:
Ok, excellent. And with that word. Good bye, everyone, and thanks for being with us.

Goodbye everyone, thank you.

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