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Report threatens existence of faith-based health care

By Deborah Gyapong
Canadian Catholic News

03/02/2016

OTTAWA (CCN) — Should the federal government accept the recommendations of its special committee on assisted death, it will threaten the existence of Canada’s faith-based health care institutions, says the Coalition for HealthCARE (see related story, page one).

“This is a grave threat to a large number of faith-based health care institutions across the country, including hospitals, long-term care facilities, nursing homes and hospices,” said Larry Worthen, coalition member and executive director of the Christian Medical and Dental Society of Canada, in a release. “Forcing these members, and leaders of these facilities, to act in this way would be trampling on their constitutional right to freedom of conscience and religion guaranteed under the Charter.

“In our view, effective referral and participating in assisted death are morally and ethically the same thing. This would force people of conscience and faith to act against their moral convictions and threaten the very core of why they became physicians, which is to help to heal people. This is discrimination. It is unnecessary. No other jurisdiction in the world requires physicians to refer for assisted death.”

Canada’s Catholic bishops have also condemned the recommendations.

“Killing the mentally and physically ill, whether young or aged, is contrary to caring for and loving one’s brother and sister,” said a pastoral letter from Canadian Conference of Catholic Bishops (CCCB) president Hamilton Bishop Douglas Crosby, who wrote that the committee report is an example of what Pope Francis has called “throw-away culture.”

He urged Catholics to let their elected representatives know the recommendations of the special joint Parliamentary Committee on Physician-Assisted Dying are “completely unacceptable.”

Catholic Organization for Life and Family director Michele Boulva said, “I have no words to describe how sad and alarming this report is. If the Trudeau government develops a bill following these lines, it will be the worst legislation in the world — a huge societal failure.

“Apart from allowing some citizens to kill others — even children and people living with mental illness — this report shows absolutely no respect for the moral convictions and the Charter-protected rights of conscience of physicians and other health care workers,” she said. “It forces them to refer to another physician if they refuse to kill a patient themselves.

“The same thing goes for all health care institutions who get public funding, including Catholic facilities: the report says that they must offer ‘medical aid in dying.’ This is called discrimination. Where is our freedom? And why should we pay for this abomination with our tax dollars?”

Alex Schadenberg, executive director of the Euthanasia Prevention Coalition, added that religious institutions cannot take part in “killing their patients,” something that is “always morally unacceptable.”
“There are many dangerous recommendations in this report,” said Schadenberg. Of special concern are the recommendations on oversight, he said. The only oversight happens after the two doctors who have approved the assisted death send in their reports.

“It’s an after-death reporting system,” he said. “The doctor who kills you will send in a report after you’re dead. You have to trust the doctor who kills you.”

Schadenberg pointed to the lack of objective criteria in assessing “intolerable suffering.”

“It means it’s pretty wide open,” he said, and will lead to more instances where assisted death will be permitted.

“Once euthanasia for minors is allowed, as well as for those with dementia based on an advanced directive, there will be arguments for the euthanasia of children and for incompetent adults, Schadenberg warned.

Schadenberg said if the recommendations concerning referrals becomes part of the legislation, “many good doctors will leave Canada.”

“It’s about time our religious leaders make it clear we will not be complicit in such a law,” Schadenberg said.

The Catholic Health Association, however, was more conciliatory.

“It is too soon to know which of the 21 recommendations may be part of any final legislation,” said a statement from association president Michael Shea. “As the federal government carefully considers the report and begins to draft legislation, we will continue to work in humility and openness with all stakeholders to navigate this issue.”

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