Canadian Church Holds Assisted Suicide Ceremony for Woman Diagnosed with ALS

  Amanda Casanova | Contributor | Thursday, April 14, 2022
Canadian Church Holds Assisted Suicide Ceremony for Woman Diagnosed with ALS

A Canadian church held an assisted suicide ceremony, called a "Crossing Over Ceremony," last month for an 86-year-old woman diagnosed with ALS, or Lou Gehrig's disease.

Churchill Park United Church of Winnipeg is the first church in Manitoba to host an assisted suicide ceremony.

According to The Christian Post, the church's leadership unanimously approved Betty Sanguin's request for the assisted suicide ceremony to take place in the church's sanctuary.

Rev. Dawn Rolke, minister of Churchill Park, said it "seemed appropriate" to have the ceremony in the sanctuary because churches are "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," said Rolke.

"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."

For the ceremony, the church brought in comfortable chairs, tables, flowers and a recliner for Sanguin as people visited her to say their goodbyes.

Sanguin's adult daughters and grandchildren also attended the ceremony.

"We were deeply honored to be able to be with Betty in her final moments and hours and to honor her wishes around her dying process. She was so happy, she was so ready, she was so radiant," Rolke said.

Canada offers patients the option of assisted suicide, or "medical aid in dying," where a doctor or nurse practitioner administers a chemical injection to the patient. The patient must be at least 18 years old and be diagnosed with a "serious and incurable disease, illness or disability" that includes "enduring and intolerable suffering."


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Photo courtesy: ©Getty Images/EJ Rodriquez

Amanda Casanova is a writer living in Dallas, Texas. She has covered news for since 2014. She has also contributed to The Houston Chronicle, U.S. News and World Report and She blogs at The Migraine Runner.