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]
The Canadian Conference of Catholic Bishops has provided the federal External Panel on Options for a Legislative Response to Carter v. Canada with a five point submission stating the opposition of the Catholic Church to physician assisted suicide and euthanasia, describing the latter practice as “murder.”
The fifth point in the submission was directed to freedom of conscience for health care workers:
On safeguarding freedom of conscience and religion, the Catholic Church believes and teaches:
“Freedom is exercised in relationships between human beings. Every human person, created in the image of God, has the natural right to be recognized as a free and responsible being. All owe to each other this duty of respect. The right to the exercise of freedom, especially in moral and religious matters, is an inalienable requirement of the dignity of the human person. This right must be recognized and protected by civil authority within the limits of the common good and public order. ” – Catechism of the Catholic Church, n. 1738
It is the conviction of all the Bishops of Canada, together with the other clergy and members of the consecrated life, united with our Catholic faithful, that our country must at all cost uphold and protect the conscience rights of the men and women who work as caregivers. Requiring a physician to kill a patient is always unacceptable. It is an affront to the conscience and vocation of the health-care provider to require him or her to collaborate in the intentional putting to death of a patient, even by referring the person to a colleague. The respect we owe our physicians in this regard must be extended to all who are engaged in health care and work in our society’s institutions, as well as to the individual institutions themselves. . .
The Canadian Conference of Catholic Bishops has released a 12 page Pastoral Letter on Freedom of Conscience and Religion. While addressed to all people of good will, the bishops particularly addressed themselves to “those members of the faithful who find themselves in difficult situations where they may be pressured to act against their religious faith or their conscience.” The document emphasizes that freedom of conscience may be acknowledged by state authority, but state authority does not create it. Among the examples of violations of freedom of conscience, the document cites rules requiring referral for abortion by objecting physicians and the demand that objecting pharmacists dispense contraceptives or the ‘morning after pill.’ It recommends four strategies: affirmation of the role of religion in the public square, upholding a healthy relationship between Church and stated, forming conscience according to truth, and protecting the right to conscientious objection