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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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]
In a strict party lines vote, a bill that would have shielded doctors and other health care providers from punishment for refusing to refer their patients on for assisted suicide was voted down at Queen’s Park on May 18.
In a recorded vote, 39 Liberals and New Democrats voted against Bill 129, Jeff Yurek’s private members’ bill aimed at protecting the conscience rights of doctors and other health care professionals. All 23 Progressive Conservatives backed their health critic’s bill.
Focus now shifts to the Christian Medical and Dental Society of Canada’s court challenge to the forced referral policy of the College of Physicians and Surgeons of Ontario. Three days of oral arguments are scheduled for Ontario Superior Court of Justice, Divisional Court June 13-15. . . [Full text]
Doctors seek protection from policy requiring them to make referral
A number of local healthcare practitioners fear their right to choose whether or not they participate in providing assisted suicide to patients is being taken away from them.
Assisted suicide became legal in Canada in June 2016.
The Canadian law to allow medical assistance in dying (MAID) followed a Supreme Court of Canada ruling that struck down the law forbidding physician assisted dying, saying the old law violates the Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedoms. The federal law, however, makes no indication that healthcare professionals would have to participate in MAID.
But, a College of Physicians and Surgeons of Ontario policy requires practitioners who conscientiously object to MAID to provide an effective referral to a non-objecting, available and accessible physician, nurse practitioner or agency. . . [Full text]
With more than 22,000 emails and letters in their in-boxes, Ontario legislators have rarely been under as much pressure to amend a bill as they have been over conscience rights for doctors in Bill-84.
In response, Ontario Health Minister Dr. Eric Hoskins has promised to have a “care co-ordination service” up and running as early as May. . .
However, Hoskins and the Liberals have so far avoided saying they would override the policy of the College of Physicians and Surgeons of Ontario which requires doctors to refer for medically assisted death even against their moral, religious and ethical convictions. . . [Full text]
Health Minister Eric Hoskins says service will be up and running as early as May
Ontario is setting up a new service for people seeking medically assisted death that will allow them to reach out for help directly, bypassing health-care providers who object to assisted suicide on conscience grounds.
Health Minister Eric Hoskins says a “care co-ordination service” for medically assisted death will be up and running as early as May.
The service will allow patients to contact central staff who will connect them with health-care providers prepared to handle requests for a medically assisted death. . . [Full text]
The right being sought by many Ontario doctors to refuse to give patient referrals for euthanasia and assisted suicide will be addressed in committee meetings at Queen’s Park in the next month.
Progressive Conservative health critic Jeff Yurek plans to introduce a conscience-protection amendment to legislation currently being debated in the Ontario legislature.
Now in second reading, Bill 84 is designed to clear up legal ambiguities surrounding doctor-assisted suicide — everything from how coroners are to record assisted suicide deaths to the right of families to collect insurance benefits. However, the legislation currently does not include conscience protection for doctors. Instead, Ontario’s independent regulator for doctors requires all doctors to provide an “effective referral” for procedures, even if the doctor objects on moral, religious or conscience grounds. . . [Full text]
Ontario will allow hospitals to opt out of providing assisted death within their walls, provoking charges from ethicists that conscientious accommodation has gone too far.
Elsewhere in the country, a divide is already shaping up, with half of voluntary euthanasia cases in Quebec reportedly occurring in Quebec City hospitals — and few in Montreal.
The situation highlights the messy state of the emotionally charged debate as the provinces wrestle with the new reality of doctor-assisted death, and as the Senate takes a proposed new law further than the governing Liberals are prepared to go. . . [Full Text]
With no law in place to govern assisted suicide, physicians and vulnerable patients face uncertainty, confusion and more opinions than facts.
“It’s a matter of weeks before people (in healthcare) are going to have to choose between their conscience and their career,” said Deacon Larry Worthen, executive director of the Christian Medical and Dental Society.
Doctors have told Worthen that some hospitals have already put in place procedures and protocols for doctor-assisted death. Some hospitals will force objecting doctors to refer for assisted suicide, even though, said Worthen, “our physicians are just unable to refer” for reasons of conscience.
Worthen and the doctors he represents want Bill C-14 passed, but they also want the Senate to add specific conscience protections for objecting doctors and health-care institutions.
“We’re pleased with what’s there, but we want to be more specific,” he said. “We want to protect facilities. We want to protect against the requirement to refer.” . . . [Full Text]
Christian Medical and Dental Society seeks protection from a College of Physicians rule requiring doctors to refer patients seeking abortions and, once it’s legal, euthanasia.
With physician-assisted suicide on the horizon, the Christian Medical and Dental Society of Canada is asking the Ontario Superior Court to declare that a new regulatory policy infringes upon doctors’ freedom of conscience.
The society, which represents close to 1,700 members, filed documents in court on Friday regarding the CPSO’s Professional Obligations and Human Rights policy that was announced on March 6. The policy means doctors who refuse to refer patients for services on religious and moral grounds, including abortions, could face discipline from their regulating body. . . [Full Text]