By Jonathon Van Maren
For some reason, Canada has become one of the most hostile nations to the conscience rights of physicians in the Western world over the last several years. Many jurisdictions have legalized assisted suicide—but nowhere else has there been so much pressure and coercion to both force physicians to refer for procedures that they believe to be unethical, and to demand that unwilling institutions also facilitate the killing of patients. From the BC Catholic:
Various health care workers and volunteers are continuing to fight the practice in the face of increasing pressure to end the lives of their patients.“I’m speaking on behalf of the sick and most vulnerable who cannot advocate for themselves,” Nancy Macey, the executive director of Delta Hospice Society, told The B.C. Catholic Feb. 6.
Macey, who created the non-profit on her kitchen table 25 years ago, was horrified to find out the Fraser Health Authority was moving ahead on plans to force hospices to provide assisted suicide, popularly termed medical assistance in dying (MAiD). That was before Christmas, and now she and many others are raising the issue with local politicians, the media, the Fraser Health Authority, and with anyone willing to listen.
“Hospice palliative care, as defined by the World Health Organization, does not hasten or prolong death,” Macey wrote in a letter to Health Minister Petitpas Taylor and seven local politicians Feb. 1. Assisted suicide, Macey said, runs contrary to these principles. She wants to see hospices have the ability to opt-out of providing assisted suicide on site, and instead transfer patients who want the lethal injection to their homes or other facilities.
“What we’re concerned about is if you introduce euthanasia into (hospice care), it’s going to put up barriers to access.” She’s worried the consequences of forcing assisted suicide into hospices, especially those that don’t want to participate, will only make matters worse for the majority of the dying.
“Those who choose to have MAiD represent one per cent of the population,” she said. “The euthanasia people have choice anywhere they want it. Where does the choice come for the people who don’t want to be in an environment with euthanasia?”
Hospice supporters say imposing assisted suicide would exacerbate the already difficult problem of providing quality palliative care to all Canadians: only about 30 per cent can currently access it.
You’ll notice that whenever something like assisted suicide gets debated, those who are advocating for it angrily demand that those who oppose it shut up, because it is a “personal decision” that “doesn’t impact anyone” and is simply a “matter of personal choice.” But once the legislation is passed and all is said and done, suddenly we find out that this is not the case. Suddenly we discover that physicians and healthcare providers will be forced to participate, and institutions rigidly opposed to assisted suicide will have to go to war to keep killing out of their facilities. More:
He’s not the only one worried that existing hospice staffing issues will get worse. Already, high-profile medical professionals like Doctor Neil Hilliard, the executive director of the Fraser Health Palliative Care Program, are resigning over the issue. And Vancouver family physician Dr. Williard Johnston penned a column calling on Fraser Health to “back down” and stop “bullying” hospices.
“It’s a very dangerous place to go,” said long-time Langley Hospice supporter Michele Coleman. She said hospices also stand to lose substantial donations.
“We have a number of people who are very much against MAiD who will withdraw their funding and support,” said Coleman, who solicited funds for the hospice while on the foundation’s board of directors for 16 years.
Those funds contribute to beds, staffing, and grieving programs. “They do a fantastic children’s camp for children who have lost parents, grandparents, or siblings,” offer various types of counselling, and host vigils at the bedsides of people who would otherwise die alone.
In the face of a brutal shortage of palliative care options, we have authorities that are willing to risk the options that do exist by demanding that these institutions facilitate the killing of patients. And of course, the very physicians that are needed are now beginning to resign—and the reality is that many physicians will probably opt to either move or begin practicing in jurisdictions that respect conscience rights. Attempts to force medical professionals to compromise their ethics are not only very dangerous, but also detrimental to those who rely on these professionals for care.
Let’s hope that the backlash to this decision culminates in a reversal.
For anyone interested, my book on The Culture War, which analyzes the journey our culture has taken from the way it was to the way it is and examines the Sexual Revolution, hook-up culture, the rise of the porn plague, abortion, commodity culture, euthanasia, and the gay rights movement, is available for sale here.