State of the Culture: Killing Conscience

By Jonathon Van Maren

The big story this week is the ongoing discussion surrounding euthanasia in Canada—but there’s been other developments, as well. My weekly culture update:


Euthanasia has many victims, but it seems that the first one the suicide cheerleaders are attempting to claim is freedom of conscience, with a Canadian parliamentary panel recommending that all medical professionals be forced to at least refer patients to their demise should they be unwilling to do the killing themselves. Cardinal Thomas Collins sounded the alarm in the Toronto Star:

On Feb. 25, 2016, a parliamentary committee presented the lawmakers who will craft this legislation with 21 recommendations. They should shock us to the core, especially if we believe, complacently and incorrectly, that the change in the law will affect only people with grave physical illness, who have lived a long life, and are near death.

In fact, the recommendations include:

  A desire to allow, beginning in three years, access to euthanasia/assisted suicide for minors (those under 18).

  The ability for those diagnosed with conditions like dementia to pre-schedule their deaths.

  Insistence that those with psychiatric conditions be eligible for euthanasia/assisted suicide.

  A requirement that any institution receiving public funding, including Catholic hospitals, long-term care facilities and hospices, provide euthanasia/assisted suicide, thus forcing them to repudiate the very principles that are the foundation of their immense service to us all.

  A requirement that doctors who refuse to kill a patient must make sure that someone else does it. No other country in the world requires such a violation of conscience.

It is unjust to force people to act against their conscience in order to be allowed to practice as a physician or, in the case of a health care facility, in order to qualify for government funding. It is not tolerant of religious diversity. It is religious discrimination that punishes those who faithfully serve everyone who comes to them, and have done so since before Canada existed. It is unfair to those, who, in good conscience, cannot perform some procedures, such as helping to kill their patients.

When the state goes beyond its legitimate but limited role and suppresses conscience rights, I am reminded of a man whose employer told him to do something against his conscience. He courageously replied: “You employ me; you don’t own me.”

End-of-life care (palliative care) is currently accessible to only 30 per cent of Canadians. This is unacceptable. Instead of providing ways to hasten death, we should be providing palliative care for every Canadian, greater support for those with mental illness, and help for those tempted to suicide.

Alleviating suffering instead of eliminating sufferers. What a novel idea.


Religious physicians, or those who feel that killing and healing go together like oil and water, are already under fire. The National Post reported that the war of words began in Ottawa, with one major palliative centre announcing they would not be offering suicide at their facility.

Bruyère Continuing Care, Ottawa’s biggest palliative care hospital, says it will not offer doctor-assisted death to eligible patients, limiting options in the city as the practice becomes legal across Canada.

Because the Catholic hospital is effectively the city’s centre of excellence in palliative care, Bruyère is likely to become a local pressure point for the way doctor assisted death translates from law to practice in Canada. The federal government is expected to have a law in place by early June…

The religious health authority says doctor-assisted death is incompatible with its values. The organization says provincial law allows its organizations to refuse doctor assisted death.

But Dying With Dignity Canada, which has fought for physician assisted dying, says it is not acceptable for entire organizations to conscientiously object to it.

“We believe that all publicly funded institutions, including Catholic hospitals, hospices and health authorities need to respect Canadians’ charter rights for assisted death if the person meets the eligibility criteria,” said Shanaaz Gokool, chief executive officer of Dying With Dignity Canada. “We see this to be one of the most critical issues around access. And for some people, it may be where the rubber hits the road.”

The federal report of the Special Joint Committee on Physician Assisted Dying, which was tabled last week, recommended that the federal government work with the provinces and territories “to ensure that all publicly funded health care institutions provide medical assistance in dying.”

“Physician assisted dying.” These people aren’t even honest enough to call it what it is—and their ethically-impaired agenda involves euthanizing consciences that oppose suicide, too. It’s going to be a brawl to ensure that ethical doctors continue to have the right not to be complicit in killing patients—and in the meantime, many Christian doctors who may have wanted to enter the field of palliative care could be scared off.


On that nauseating note, I noticed that The Abortion Rights Coalition of Canada just congratulated Dr. Ellen Wiebe for dispatching her first adult patient through “doctor-assisted death” in British Columbia. And the reason I say refer to the dead woman as Wiebe’s first adult victim is because Wiebe is also an abortionist. Big surprise, right? Apparently some doctors like to burn the candle at both ends.


First Things has taken notice of the Canadian situation with great concern. Where, they ask, is the outcry at these threats to human life and religious freedom?

This is particularly worrying from a medical conscience perspective, because it leaves no wiggle room to say no. For example, objecting doctors might be able to defend their refusals by claiming that the euthanasia requester is not legally qualified. Nurses, however, would not even have that slim hope, since they would merely be delegated the dirty task of carrying out the homicide. This leaves nurses with religious objections to euthanasia with the stark choice of administering the lethal dose when directed by a doctor, or being insubordinate and facing job termination. The same conundrum would no doubt apply to religiously dissenting pharmacists when ordered to concoct a deadly brew…

That leaves medical professionals who oppose euthanasia—five thousand religiously oriented doctors have joined the Coalition for Healthcare and Conscience to protest the proposals—in a very tight spot, raising the question of what options will be available to conscientious objectors:

  • They can keep their heads down and pray they are never asked to kill a patient.
  • They can surrender and become part of the death machine—at the risk of the eternal consequences that their faith beliefs portend.
  • They can give up their careers and hand the keys of what are now religious medical institutions to secular ownership (or, move to the United States where, at least for now, doctors and nurses enjoy conscience protections).
  • Finally, the difficult but most righteous course would be to engage in a policy of total non-cooperation with the culture of death, forcing the national and provincial governments and medical colleges either to turn a blind eye or to inflict unjust punishments on doctors for refusing to kill. Perhaps such draconian measures would bring the country to its senses.

Where are the church organizations in all of this? Some notable Canadian prelates and other faith leaders have spoken out strongly against the pending coercion. But in Canada’s highly secularized society, it will probably require louder voices than these—for example those of Pope Francis and the Dalai Lama—to turn the tide. But the hour is very late. The embarrassment caused by the wildly popular pope condemning a nation that considers itself the epitome of reasonableness might be the only preventative measure that can save religious liberty in what used to be the free country of Canada.

A very good question.


Speaking of threats to religious liberty and physical safety, it turns out the so-called “transgender bathroom” guidelines, which stipulate that a man identifying as a woman can tromp merrily into the women’s bathroom or change room, are already being abused. Can you believe it? I, for one, am shocked that Peeping Toms exist:

It wasn’t going to happen. This was not going to be a problem. Only honest-to-goodness women who were trapped in a men’s bodies by genes were going to use women’s locker rooms. Everyone would be well-intentioned and everyone would be comfortable. No big deal. Any concerns some might have about opportunistic voyeurism were an overblown panic.

Except it wasn’t. Recently, a man who did not claim to be a trans-woman justwalked into the women’s locker room at a Seattle public pool and started changing and watching the women change. A woman reported him. Staff asked him to leave. He resisted, asserting he was allowed to be there. He went for his swim and then returned to the women’s locker room when he was finished. A girls’ swim team was using the facility. Mothers complained, and he eventually left. The police were not called because if he identified as a woman, then he was within his rights, and if he did not, then the staff preferred to settle the issue without involving the police. The story got out when a witness called a radio station.

Two things that stand out to me, besides the “told ya” point all of us maligned panic mongers can claim: One, the staff person interviewed said, “We want everyone to feel comfortable at our facilities.” Well, the woman who asked him to leave did not feel comfortable with a man changing in the women’s locker room. Nor did the young girls’ swim team or their mothers who were in the locker room when he returned to assert his legal right to change in the women’s space. When does their comfort count?

Or if a rape survivor was in the locker room at the time, would her discomfort count? The trigger warnings that now blanket our public discussion actually became popular because feminists wanted to advertise that they cared about rape victims. (Ponder for a second that they felt they needed to advertise that fact.) So are we supposed to accept discussion restraints because someone might talkabout rape in the presence of a victim but brush away any concern for past victimsactually confronted with a male in spaces where women get naked?

These days, saying “I told you so” is not very fun anymore.


On a more amusing note, a large group of secularist scientists are losing their minds over the fact that a recently published scientific paper makes reference to a Creator. From The Independent:

A recent scientific paper on the movement of the human hand has faced strong criticism for referring to a ‘Creator’ throughout.

The paper, titled: ‘Biomechanical characteristics of hand coordination in grasping activities of daily living’ was written by a team of four researchers, three from Huazhong University in China, and one from Worcester Polytechnic Institute in Massachusetts.

Published in the PLOS ONE journal, the fairly conventional study looked at the mechanics of how we grasp things, and involved the measurement of the hand movements of 30 participants.

However, members of the scientific community have demanded the paper be retracted, for its several perceived references to the pseudoscientific theory of intelligent design and a possibly divine ‘Creator’.

In the opening sentences of the study, it claims the link between muscles and hand movements is the product of “proper design by the Creator.”

Later, it says human hand coordination “should indicate the mystery of the Creator’s invention,” and concludes by again claiming the mechanical architecture of the hand is the result of “proper design by the Creator.”

The paper, of course, will now be retracted due to the furious denunciations of the randomly-evolved shifting piles of protoplasm who, for some mysterious reason, feel that the instinctive chemical responses emanating from their accidental brains can be trusted as “arguments,” even though their worldview precludes belief in such things. But when it comes to God, most of our society is now responding with a fight or flight instinct.

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