Ontario court rules doctors who oppose assisted death must refer patients

The Globe and Mail

Sean Fine

In the first Canadian test of conscience rights for doctors who oppose assisted death, an Ontario court has upheld regulations requiring the objectors to refer their patients to physicians willing to perform the procedure.

Groups representing 4,700 Christian doctors had challenged Ontario’s regulations requiring the referrals, saying that making such a referral was morally equivalent to participating in an assisted death.

But Ontario’s Divisional Court said the referral rule was a reasonable limit on doctors’ freedom of religion because it protects vulnerable patients from harm. And those patients, it said, have a constitutional right to equitable access to publicly funded health care.

Without the policy of “effective referral,” equitable access would be “compromised or sacrificed, in a variety of circumstances, more often than not involving vulnerable members of our society at the time of requesting services,” Justice Herman Wilton-Siegel wrote in the 3-0 ruling on Wednesday. . . [Full text]

Covenant Health exclusion on assisted death condemned

Transferring patients would be ‘unfortunate,’ says Dying with Dignity Edmonton co-chair Bradley Peter

CBC News

Advocates for physician-assisted death are condemning a decision which will allow Covenant Health to opt out provincial regulations on the practice.

The Supreme Court of Canada ordered the federal government to have a law in place allowing physician-assisted death by June 6. But the bill addressing that order still faces a battle in the Senate, so it appears unlikely the deadline will be met. Meanwhile, provincial governments are still grappling with how to address regulations for the new law.

The Alberta government has said Convenant Health  –  a Catholic-run and publicly funded health organization  –  will be allowed to opt out for conscience reasons. Patients at hospitals and continuing-care facilities run by Covenant Health will be transferred to other health facilities if they seek a physician-assisted death.  . .[Full Text]

ALS sufferer first Canadian to receive judge’s approval for assisted death

 The Globe and Mail

Sean Fine, Elizabeth Church

A woman suffering from the paralyzing degenerative disease known as ALS has become the first to receive a judicially authorized assisted death in Canada.

The woman received permission from a Calgary judge in a hearing last week from which the media and other members of the public were barred. Known as Ms. S in a ruling made public this week, she then travelled to Vancouver where two physicians attended to her on private property.

Ellen Wiebe, a Vancouver physician, confirmed the death Monday night, saying she was with Ms. S. and pronounced her dead at 8:30.

Ms. S. “suffered unnecessarily because she was required to travel from Calgary to Vancouver on the last day of her life, since she could not find a Calgary physician to help her,” she said in an e-mail to The Globe and Mail.

Ms. S, a retired psychologist who loved hiking in the mountains, was diagnosed with the incurable disease in 2013 after developing a speech impediment, and was told last October that nothing more could be done to slow its progress. . . . [Full text]

 

Quebec’s split over euthanasia a warning for Canada

Palliative care specialists’ reluctance to administer life-ending drugs indicates it may be easier to change laws than attitudes.

Toronto Star

Allan Woods

MONTREAL―Quebec”s euthanasia law is the template and test case for the rest of the country, but problems emerging just months before the terminally ill can start demanding their deaths show that laws are easier to change than attitudes.

Since legislation was adopted in the summer of 2014 that would allow dying patients access to a life-ending drug cocktail under strict conditions, politicians here have celebrated the perception of Quebecers being the vanguards of social change.

But with time running out before Dec. 10 — the date that patients can begin requesting the procedure — hospitals and health-care providers are scrambling to draw up policies and find the staff who will carry out those patients” wishes.

If that wasn”t tough enough, some of those who might be expected to lead the change — palliative care physicians and hospice administrators — have let it be known that they are instead digging trenches for the battle.

“The vocation of a palliative care hospice is to provide care, and that doesn”t include medical aid in dying,” said Élise Rheault, director of Maison Albatros Trois-Rivières. . . [Full Text]