Readers write: November 3, 2023 issue

November 2, 2023 | Opinion | Volume 27 Issue 22
(Graphic by Betty Avery)

Gratitude for foyer discussions
Today I got my COVID booster. Other than a barely perceptible soreness in my arm, I have never experienced side effects from these vaccinations.

When it comes to being pro-vaccine, my wife and I are in the minority on her side of the family. Right now, I am tempted to boast to them. However, aware of my urge to preach, I know I need to cool it.

This is where the conversation in Canadian Mennonite has been so helpful! Today I pulled out my saved issues on vital topics of the day. The first was Will Braun’s three-part series, “The sweet solace of polarization” (October 2022), which encouraged readers to understand those with different viewpoints.

The second was Jack Suderman’s letter (“Readers write,” May 24, 2021) noting that tone is just as important as precise words and the clarity of argument—something I need to hear, given my penchant toward lecturing and sarcasm.

The third was a letter by Montreal health care worker, Duncan Schellenberg (“Readers write,” June 7, 2021) noting that what helps protect his rights is not protests but “the actions of the majority who are willing to accept vaccines and choose through prayer and reason, to abide by COVID-19 restrictions.”

I have been enjoying Canadian Mennonite for its church foyer discussions, as I think Will Braun termed it when he became editor. I can still remember the faces, topics and some of the conversations at Blenheim Mennonite Church near New Dundee, Ontario, when I was growing up.

As someone who wants to follow Jesus, these conversations are most helpful. Thank you!
—Jim Shantz, Bon Accord, Alberta (Holyrood Mennonite Church, Edmonton)

MAID questions
I commend Canadian Mennonite for taking on the sensitive topic of medical assistance in dying (MAID). I listened to the October 25 online event on the topic. Thanks to panelists Rhonda Wiebe and Lisa Heinrichs for raising important issues.

A major concern of the panelists, and many others, is that a significant motivation for MAID is inadequate palliative care.

Effective palliative care is expensive, and MAID is the much less expensive alternative. There is truth to this point, but the fact is that our society cannot afford, or is unwilling to spend, the resources that an adequate palliative care system requires, among all the other demands for expensive health care.

Even if we spent the necessary resources, the ability of existing palliative technologies to relieve extreme suffering in all patients is limited. Certainly, if we had an ideal palliative care system, the need to resort to MAID would be lessened. But we do not, and will not, have that ideal system.

MAID will remain the only avenue for many people to relieve intolerable suffering. It is neither empathetic nor helpful simply to say to them, “Too bad we do not have better palliative care for you.”

The panelists raised another important concern—whether MAID devalues the life and dignity of persons with disabilities and other marginalized people. It is vital that the implementation of MAID include safeguards against such impact. But the focus on MAID tends to obscure a deeper aspect of this question.

In our society, matters of life and death have long become technologized. Medical technologies are utilized daily by many of us, especially us older folk, to stave off what in pre-technological society would be a “natural death.” With or without MAID, the time and conditions of our death are increasingly determined by someone’s decision to implement or discontinue a life-saving technology.

In matters of death and dying we have been “playing God” for a long time.

Nearly all the questions about the just and fair use of MAID apply to the allocation of always-scarce and expensive technologies. A central issue in biomedical ethics is that marginalized people in our society are systematically given less access to life-saving and life-enhancing (including palliative) medical resources. Who is more likely to get the available kidney, heart or liver—the young, vital, clean-living professional, or the cognitively challenged, homeless, poor person? Who will most likely die early as a result?
—Conrad G. Brunk, Waterloo, Ontario

Online comments

A reminder from Mr. Zimmerman
The article “Memory carrier” (October 20) brought tears to my eyes. It is impossible to understand all the motivations which cause folks to enlist in a war, and I am reminded of the lyrics of Bob Dylan in “The Times They Are A-Changin’,” where he admonishes listeners: “Don’t criticize what you can’t understand.”

As I age, I find I need to regularly remind myself of that truth. I can’t possibly know or understand all the nuances that inform someone else’s decision, especially one as deeply consequential as going off to war.
Paul Thiessen, Vancouver

Careful, beautiful words
Thank you, Randy (“To remember is to work for peace,” October 20), for putting words together in a careful and beautiful way. You express my heart and sentiments very well. The bombing of an ancient church in Gaza, where hundreds of people were seeking shelter, ought to be enough to convince everyone that holy war is always wrong. Yes, let’s speak and act following the way of Jesus, prince of peace.
—Jonathan Bornman

New application
Great insight (“To remember is to work for peace,” October 20). My wife and I grew up with the story of Zacchaeus and this is a new application for us.
—Gary Nesbit

Open to different narratives
I agree entirely with the author (“White Christian nationalism,” October 20). I came to the Anabaptist faith later in life, in my 20s, and what compelled me was how we embody and nurture Jesus’s way of welcoming and loving everyone—not just certain types of people that fit our narrative. How can you be a Christian and go against Jesus’s desire and hope for us? I hope this article will be read and shared numerous times. Thank you!
—Corinne Lafontaine

(Graphic by Betty Avery)

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