The Four Last Things as an Antidote to Euthanasia

The Harrowing of Hell or Christ in Limbo, from The Large Passion (Albrecht Durer, 1510)

Since legalization in 2016, medical assistance in dying has become normalized, with too many doctors and nurses presenting it as a viable medical treatment. From my point of view as someone who works in healthcare, when people are staring at their mortality, besides the turmoil of emotions that accompany their inescapable fate, many more consider medically sanctioned death. Less surprising to me now than in 2016 is the fact that some of the MAiD proponents I have encountered in my professional life are Catholics, not in name only, but Church-going, homebound as well as hospitalized members of the One True Faith.

A few years ago when I gave talks in different parishes as part of the Call for Conscience Campaign in the Archdiocese of Toronto, in every parish where I spoke, a few people voiced their support for MAiD. Some talked in a whisper as if it was their dirty little secret. Others were emboldened, announcing their support for euthanasia.

Amongst the Catholic patients I have met since 2016, conversations about medical suicide at a chosen time in their future have happened more often than I would like. As one homebound Catholic adamantly told me, “It’s my life. I’ll do what I want.”

I am not a theologian. I do not possess an M. Div. My only experience as a catechist was teaching First Communion classes for four years where I augmented parish resources with lessons from the reliable Baltimore Catechism and invited the parents to stay and learn their Faith.

What I do possess is many years of on-the-ground, grassroots experience caring for the sick, the dying, the homebound, the elderly. What I’ve noticed is that the people who think MAiD is a good thing have a poor understanding of their Catholic Faith, especially of the Four Last Things: death, judgment, heaven, hell.

Purgatory has fallen out of favour with this crowd and their arrival at Heaven’s gate in the next instant after they leave this world is presumed to be a done deal. There’s the notion that the Sacrament of Confession is a waste of time because, in words I have heard more than once, “I don’t have any sins.” Yet, while Confession is redundant, the reception of the Blessed Sacrament, usually brought by well-meaning lay Church volunteers who are equally uneducated in the Faith, is seen as their right. One person told me that Eucharistic Adoration was unnecessary because “every hour is a Holy Hour.”

From Our Lord and Saviour Himself, to the Church Fathers, saints, Popes and proper Catholic theologians, the Four Last Things remain the foundation of Catholic teaching. Yet too many of our brothers and sisters in Christ, for a multitude of reasons that we already know, no longer believe in these Truths. So how are we to help them?

First, we need to soberly live our own lives bearing in mind the Four Last Things: how our Lord’s Incarnation, teaching, crucifixion, death, resurrection and His Real Presence in the Holy Eucharist all lead us to that ultimate moment that none of us will escape and what happens beyond.

Find a parish where Holy Mass is offered reverently and where these Truths are preached; not feel-good homilies or trendy sermons about climate change, but solid Catholic teaching. And we need to support the priests who still preach Truth because they are not the popular ones.

Reach out to those who are struggling with life-altering illness, whether they are young or old. We do this with our prayers, commending the sick and dying to the salvific power of His Most Precious Blood and for some of us, by our corporal works of mercy. Compassionate reassurance of God’s love and promise of salvation in light of the Four Last Things will save someone from choosing MAiD. I’ve seen it happen. While we realistically can’t defeat the legal euthanasia juggernaut, we can defeat it in our misguided struggling brothers and sisters in Christ.




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Terry McDermott is a wife, mother of eight and a grandmother. She is a registered nurse, employed in Ontario, and holds a certificate in Parish Nursing Ministry. In her precious little spare time uses her certification in her volunteer work.