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'Deeply Troubling': Manitoba Church Holds Controversial Assisted Suicide Ceremony


A Canadian church building was the site of a recent assisted suicide in a ceremony that was held for one of its elderly members. 

Last month, a "Crossing Over Ceremony" was held at the Churchill Park United Church of Winnipeg for Betty Sanguin, 86, who had been diagnosed with ALS or Lou Gehrig's disease, The Winnipeg Free Press reports. 

Sanguin had decided to end her life with medical assistance, the outlet reported, and one of her final requests was for it to take place at the church where she had raised her family. 

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Churchill Park's leadership team unanimously approved Sanguin's request, according to The Christian Post. (CP)

It was the first instance in Manitoba where a case of assisted suicide took place in a church building, according to The Free Press. The entire procedure took 15 minutes and Sanguin passed away with her loved ones standing beside her. 

The minister of Churchill Park, Rev. Dawn Rolke, told CP 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. Hers was a growing, changing spirituality; her faith was feisty, fierce and passionate, like Betty herself," Rolke explained.

"Some see medically-assisted death as a private matter and they sought to honor this individual's request. Some felt it was right for Betty, in particular," she told CP. 

Assisted suicide also known in Canada as "medical assistance in dying" or MAiD has been available in Canada since 2016. It is provided to legally eligible patients who give consent, according to the Free Press. To date, 919 patients have been allowed to kill themselves through Canada's healthcare system. 

James Mildred, director of Communications and Engagement at the Christian charity CARE, called the Churchill Park church's assistance with an assisted suicide "deeply troubling."

"The fact that a church in Canada has endorsed the practice of assisted suicide is deeply troubling," Mildred told Premier Christian News. "I can honestly say that it is my clear conviction that God's word is clear on this matter."

"Time and again, the Bible teaches us that our lives are in God's hands, and we are not to murder or be involved in helping someone kill themselves," he added. 

"The prescription of lethal drugs is not an appropriate response to suffering. It is deeply harmful: to people who suffer in the process itself; to relatives who watch on and are laden with guilt and pain afterward; and to society as a whole," Mildred said. 

Currently, assisted suicide in the U.S. is legal in 11 jurisdictions, including California, Colorado, the District of Columbia, Hawaii, Montana, Maine, New Jersey, New Mexico, Oregon, Vermont, and Washington.

Meanwhile, an assisted suicide bill was rejected in Connecticut for the tenth time this week. Senators on the State General Assembly's judiciary committee defeated the proposed bill by a 5-4 vote. Democratic Sen. Mae Flexer of Windham voted with the four Republicans in opposing the measure, according to the Omaha World-Herald

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