Stand-off with Catholic hospitals as euthanasia gains traction in Canada


Xavier Symons

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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Conscientious objection in assisted suicide cases under threat in Ontario


Kevin J. Jones

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]


Dying with Dignity may challenge Ontario law exempting religious hospitals from offering assisted death

At least 631 people have chosen a medically assisted death since it became legal, coroner tells CBC News

CBC News

Laura Fraser

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]


Should doctors be paid a premium for assisting deaths?

Physicians can make more doing paperwork than performing this legal, but emotionally demanding, service. For many, it’s just not worth it.


Catherine McIntyre

Back in March, Dr. Tanja Daws took time off from her family practice to travel from B.C.’s Comox Valley to a remote community on Vancouver Island and provide an elderly patient who was dying and suffering with medical assistance in dying (MAID). After the five-and-a-half hour endeavour, which involved some of the most emotionally and technically difficult work Daws has ever done, the physician calculated that, after factoring in her staffing costs and other office expenses, she had lost about $28 for every hour she worked.

“It struck me that I can’t keep doing this,” says Daws. “I can work for nothing, but I can’t work for a loss.” . . . [Full text]

Ontario adds wording to legislation recognizing conscience rights of hospitals

Toronto Sun

Liz Payne

The Ontario government has quietly amended its proposed Patients First Act with wording that appears to strengthen the rights of faith-based hospitals to opt out of assisted death.

The proposed amendment, which was not originally in the act, appeared when it was re-tabled last month after the legislature was prorogued. The act, according to the province, is aimed at improving health care for patients and their families. . . [Full text]

B.C. man faced excruciating transfer after Catholic hospital refused assisted-death request

National Post

Tom Blackwell

Ian Shearer had had enough of the pain and wanted a quick, peaceful end, his life marred by multiple afflictions.

But the Vancouver man’s family says his last day alive became an excruciating ordeal after the Catholic-run hospital caring for him rebuffed his request for a doctor-assisted death, forcing him to transfer to another hospital.

The combination of the cross-town trip and inadequate pain control left Shearer, 84, in agony through most of his final hours, says daughter Jan Lackie.

“To hear him crying out, screaming … was just horrible,” said Lackie, breaking into tears as she recalled the day in late August. “That’s what keeps me from sleeping at night … I don’t want any other person to go through what he did.”

Shearer’s experience at St. Paul’s Hospital highlights one of the thorniest issues concerning assisted death: the decision of most faith-based —  but taxpayer-funded — health-care facilities to play no part in a practice made legal by the Supreme Court of Canada and federal legislation. . . [Full text]


Doctor affiliated with Catholic hospital speaks out against assisted-death ban

  The Globe and Mail

Laura Kane

A doctor affiliated with a Catholic hospital in a small British Columbia community says the facility’s likely ban on assisted-dying is a violation of terminally ill patients’ charter rights.

Dr. Jonathan Reggler said St. Joseph’s General Hospital is the only hospital in the Comox Valley and as a Catholic facility it generally forbids doctors from helping patients die, although a formal policy has not yet been adopted.

Reggler said terminally ill patients in hospital who want a doctor’s help to die will either be denied that right or have to be moved 50 kilometres to the nearest hospital in Campbell River. . . [Full text]


Hotel-Dieu, Hospice hope to avoid providing doctor-assisted death

Windsor Star

Brian Cross

Those seeking to escape the agony of incurable illnesses will have the legal right to choose doctor-assisted suicide as of June 6, but two publicly funded institutions that care for the region’s dying hope they won’t be forced to allow it within their walls.

Hotel-Dieu Grace Healthcare runs the area’s only in-hospital palliative care unit, where five, six or seven deaths a week is not unusual. As a faith-based Catholic hospital, it does not believe it should participate in physician-assisted suicide, said CEO Janice Kaffer.

The Hospice of Windsor and Essex County has a policy opposing physician-assisted suicide, citing a “respect for the dignity and sanctity of human life,” and asserting that it’s not part of palliative care. It provides palliative care to hundreds of area patients in their homes, as well as in its hospice residences in Windsor and Leamington. Its philosophy is if someone’s pain and symptoms can be well managed, they don’t need to resort to a physician-assisted death. CEO Carol Derbyshire said Canada’s hospices are trying to convince the government to let them to opt out. . . [Full text]


Ellen Wiebe is the doctor seeking a smoother path to assisted death

The Globe and Mail

Elizabeth Church

The physician who helped a Calgary woman with ALS to hasten her death following a court’s approval says more needs to be done to remove roadblocks and prevent unnecessary suffering for those who meet the legal requirements to end their life.

Ellen Wiebe, the Vancouver doctor who was with the woman when she died Monday night, said last-minute difficulties obtaining the necessary drugs and finding a second doctor as required by the court underscore the need for clear professional guidelines and a national directory of those willing to provide a medically assisted death. . . [Full text]


Ottawa’s Catholic palliative care hospital under pressure as it refuses to do euthanasia

LifeSite News

Lianne Laurence

OTTAWA, March 2, 2016 (LifeSiteNews) – Ottawa’s largest palliative care hospital, the Catholic Bruyère Continuing Care Centre, says it will neither euthanize nor assist its patients to commit suicide when those options become legally available June 6.

Bruyère’s vice-president of public affairs and planning, Amy Porteous, told the Ottawa Citizen that the hospital is “waiting for clarification” on the protocol for transferring patients who request euthanasia or assisted suicide after that date.

Bruyère is among 21 Catholic health care institutions administered by the Catholic Health Sponsors of Ontario.

Other institutions under CHSO’s oversight include Toronto’s St. Michael’s Hospital and Providence Centre, the Pembroke Regional Hospital, Penetanguishene’s Waypoint Centre for Mental Health Care, and Sudbury’s St. Joseph’s Continuing Care Centre. . . [Full text]