Good News and Bad News

Presentation to the Catholic Physicians’ Guild of Vancouver

North Vancouver B.C.

Sean Murphy *

Introduction

Thank you for inviting me to speak this evening. I have never been asked to give a three hour presentation to a group of physicians. You will be relieved to know that I have not been asked to do that tonight.

Those of you who saw the BC Catholic headline may have been expecting a “lecture on medical ethics,” but, thanks to Dr. Bright’s introduction, you now know that I am an administrator, not an ethicist, and that my topic is freedom of conscience in health care.

Protection of Conscience Project

The Protection of Conscience Project will be 15 years old this December. Although a meeting sponsored by the Catholic Physicians Guild provided the impetus for its formation, the Project is a non-denominational initiative, not a Catholic enterprise. Thus, if I mention the Catholic Church or Catholic teaching tonight, it will be as an outsider, as it were, though an outsider with inside information.

One more thing: the Project does not take a position on the acceptability of morally contested procedures like abortion, contraception or euthanasia: not even on torture. The focus is exclusively on freedom of conscience.

Context

Supreme Court of Canada, OttawaThe context for my presentation is provided by the passage of the Quebec euthanasia law1 and the pending decision in Carter v. Canada in the Supreme Court.2 Physicians are now confronted by the prospect that laws against euthanasia and physician assisted suicide will be struck down or changed. If that happens, what does the future hold for Catholic physicians and others who share your beliefs?

Will you be forced to participate in suicide or euthanasia?

If you refuse, will you be disadvantaged, discriminated against, disciplined, sued or fired?

Will you be forced out of your specialty or profession, or forced to emigrate if you wish to continue in it?

What about those who come after you? If you avoid all of these difficulties, will they?

In sum, will freedom of conscience and religion for health care workers be protected if assisted suicide and euthanasia are legalized? [Full Text]

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