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]
Dr. Frank Ewert wants protection from having to help a patient die — but Dying with Dignity Canada doesn’t want that to happen at the cost of patients receiving full access to end-of-life options.
“When I started back a number of years ago and vowed to follow the Hippocratic oath, I meant it. It was very profound to me, it resonated with my core beliefs, that I would always respect life, that I would do nothing to harm a patient,” Ewert told a legislative committee on Monday evening. . . [Full text]
Dying with Dignity Canada says Bill 34 doesn’t protect patients’ rights to access assisted dying
A bill that would protect Manitoba health professionals’ rights to refuse assisted dying services and protect them from reprisals is being called redundant and one-sided.
Bill 34, which was introduced in May and hasn’t yet reached a second reading in the House, would ensure health professionals cannot be compelled to go against their own religious or ethical beliefs when it comes to providing medical assistance in dying (MAID) services.
It would also ban any professional regulatory body from requiring members to participate in medically assisted deaths, which were made legal by the Supreme Court in 2015. . . [Full text]
In July, 2017, Canadian euthanasia/assisted suicide (EAS) practitioners and advocates alleged that patient access to euthanasia and assisted suicide was in danger because of “barriers” and “disincentives” to physician participation. Dr. Stefanie Green, president of their professional association, described the situation as “a crisis.”1 There was, in fact, no crisis — only a false perception of crisis fuelled by unrealistic expectations about levels of physician participation in euthanasia and assisted suicide.2
Nonetheless, it is reasonable for policy makers to respond to their concerns that physicians are discouraged from participating in euthanasia and assisted suicide. Indeed, objecting physicians are less likely to experience disadvantage and coercion if policy-makers seriously consider suggestions by EAS practitioners and advocates about how to encourage physician participation in euthanasia.
Removing barriers and disincentives to physician participation
Minimizing procedural and administrative requirements
Returning to the complaints and concerns of Canadian euthanasia practitioners (see Canada’s Summer of Discontent2), reducing or streamlining procedural requirements and minimizing burdensome paperwork might encourage more physicians to participate. However, this raises a question that may prove difficult to answer. Is a procedural requirement a “barrier” — or a necessary safeguard? A “disincentive” — or an essential ethical prerequisite? The difficulty is illustrated by developments in Belgium. . . .[Full text]
As euthanasia rates increase in the Canadian province of Ontario, pressure is mounting on Catholic Healthcare providers to abandon their blanket opposition to Medical Assistance in Dying (MAiD).
Over 630 Ontarians have received MAiD since the procedure was legalised in Canada in 2015, according to data from the provincial coroner, yet none of these cases has taken place in a Catholic healthcare facility.
Lobby groups are now calling for sanctions on Catholic healthcare providers, particularly in light of the public funding these providers receive.
Dying With Dignity Canada CEO Shanaaz Gokool told CBA News that her organisation is considering a legal challenge of Catholic hospitals’ right to conscientiously object to participation in euthanasia.
Gokool says that the Catholic healthcare policy of transferring MAiD patients to secular facilities places an undue burden on patients. “It really depends on how precarious their physical medical condition is,” she said. “And if they are in a precarious state physically, then that can cause them more trauma.”
Ontario health minister Eric Hoskins said that access to MAiD was not currently a problem. “We’re obviously monitoring it very, very closely and currently don’t have those concerns in terms of access,” he told CBA News. “And about half of medical assistance in dying happens at home”.
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TORONTO, Canada – Conscience protections for Catholic hospitals and other organizations could soon come under fire in the Canadian province of Ontario, with one assisted suicide group saying they may challenge this legislation in court.
Deacon Larry Worthen, executive director of the Christian Medical and Dental Society of Canada, warned that it becomes very difficult to defend objections to assisted suicide once it becomes legal.
“Of course our position would be that there should be no requirement for faith-based institutions to be involved in assisted suicide or euthanasia,” the deacon said. “It’s appropriate that not only the institution, but the individuals should be protected as well.” . . . [Full text]
At least 631 people have chosen a medically assisted death since it became legal, coroner tells CBC News
While more than 630 Ontarians to date have legally ended their lives with the help of a nurse or doctor, none have been able to do so within the walls of a hospital that has historic ties to the Catholic Church.
But advocates for medically assisted dying argue that since these are public-funded health-care centres, they are bound to offer the option — even though Ontario law currently exempts any person or institution that objects.
It’s legislation that Dying With Dignity Canada may challenge in court, according to the group’s CEO. . . [Full text]
As a faith-based institution, St. Joe’s won’t help its patients die
Despite being allowed by law in Canada, patients at any St. Joseph’s Health Care London facility must go elsewhere if they want a medically assisted death.
In June of 2016, Parliament passed Bill C-14, which lays out the rules that allow doctors and nurse practioners to legally end the lives of patients who are suffering and whose deaths are “reasonably foreseeable.”
Doctors and faith-based intuitions in Ontario that object to doctor-assisted death for religious reasons can’t be forced to perform any procedure that helps a patient die.
As a Catholic intuition, St. Joseph’s won’t allow medically assisted deaths to happen at its facilities, which include the main hospital, the Mount Hope Centre for Long Term Care (394 beds) and the Parkwood Institute’s Main Building (14 palliative care beds and 156 long-term care beds). . . [Full Text]
Manitoba’s health minister stepped up to defend a Winnipeg hospital Tuesday, over its hotly criticized reversal on providing medically assisted deaths.
Minister Kelvin Goertzen said the province won’t oppose St. Boniface Hospital’s faith-based decision not to allow medical assistance in dying (MAID), even after saying it would in some cases.
“We think that we’ve struck the right balance by ensuring that there is access to MAID but also ensuring that those individual rights and those hospitals that are uncomfortable with the procedure can also have their rights respected as well,” said Goertzen.
On May 29, St. Boniface Hospital voted to allow medically assisted deaths under undefined “special circumstances.” But the hospital’s owner, the Catholic Health Corporation of Manitoba (CHCM), then appointed 10 new board members to cast a June 12 vote that completely banned assisted deaths once again, meaning patients who want them will still have to be transferred. . . [Full text]
Advocates hail judge’s decision in woman’s assisted death appeal
A 77-year-old woman seeking medical assistance in dying has a “reasonably foreseeable” natural death, a judge declared Monday in an attempt to clear up uncertainty that left her doctor unwilling to perform the end-of-life procedure for fear of a murder charge.
The decision has been hailed by advocates for clarifying a confusing part of the assisted-dying legislation.
Two doctors found that the woman, known under a publication ban as AB, qualified for medical assistance in dying.
But the first doctor later said he was “uncomfortable” performing the procedure because another doctor had disagreed that the woman met the requirement of a reasonably foreseeable natural death, and because of the vagueness of the term “reasonably foreseeable.” . . . [Full text]