Parish Ministry Conference - Christ, the Sure Foundation


Fostering True Dignity at the End of Life

William F. Sullivan, MD, CFPC (COE), PhD

Some of the toughest moral and ethical challenges facing the Catholic Church in the 21st Century are in palliative care and involve legalized euthanasia, known in Canada as "Medical Assistance in Dying" or MAID. In this track, Dr. Sullivan will discuss the Catholic teaching regarding the inherent dignity, equality, and inviolability of human life. In light of this, we will discuss why attempts to make this foundational ethical stance compatible with MAID have failed. We will also discuss what practical approaches and alternatives are available for Catholic ministers who care for vulnerable persons who are seriously ill or dying, including those who are asking about or requesting MAID. An important topic will be spiritual development and spiritual care within palliative and hospice care.

This track will help participants deepen their understanding of what it means to be Catholic today, to reflect on moral and ethical challenges in light of faith, and minister to vulnerable persons who are seriously ill or dying with the compassion and love of Christ. This track will include presentations and also offer an opportunity for participants to engage in interactive small- and large-group discussions.

All new and experienced Ministers of Care who are involved in the Ministry to the Sick and Homebound in homes, nursing homes or hospitals; Bereavement Ministry; and other caring ministries will be enriched by this track and gain further skills and tools to enhance their ministry.

Dr. William Sullivan

Dr. William Sullivan is a family physician at St. Michael’s Hospital and Surrey Place, Toronto and Associate Professor in the Department of Family and Community Medicine, University of Toronto. He has a certificate of added competency in Care of the Elderly from the College of Family Physicians of Canada, in which he is also a Fellow. He is founding director of the Canadian Catholic Bioethics Institute, the International Association of Catholic Bioethics, and the Developmental Disabilities Primary Care Program. Dr. Sullivan works as a family physician in the St. Michael Hospital’s Academic Family Health Team and  Medical Services at Surrey Place (Toronto). In these capacities, he provides primary care assessments of vulnerable persons who are seriously ill or dying, including adults with intellectual and developmental disabilities He is past Chair of the Committee on Ethics of the College of Family Physicians of Canada (CFPC) and served as Chair of the CFPC’s Task Force on End of Life Care. Dr. Sullivan also holds a Doctorate in Philosophy (focus on bioethics). Since being appointed in 2007, he has served as an Ordinary Member of the Pontifical Academy for Life.

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