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Steve Weatherbe

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B.C. doctor resigns from Catholic hospital’s ethics board over policy against euthanasia

Steve Weatherbe

COMOX, British Columbia, October 21, 2016 (LifeSiteNews) – A Comox doctor has quit the ethics committee at the Vancouver Island community’s only hospital because it refuses to provide euthanasia or assisted suicide according the Judeo-Christian teaching against murder.

Dr. Jonathan Reggler believes any local patient seeking Medical Assistance in Dying (MAID) would have a Charter of Rights and Freedoms case against St. Joseph’s, owned by the Catholic Diocese of Victoria. “They will need legal advice,” he told the news media, “and I’d be more than happy to help them find it.”

Reggler is echoing the complaint of an Alberta woman whose father was a patient at St. Paul’s hospital in Vancouver until his request for MAID led to his transfer to another facility. She complained about the influence of “the Pope” and noted that since St. Paul’s took public money it should provide every legal service.

Catholic religious orders of sisters built many hospitals across Canada and the U.S. in the 19th and early 20th centuries, providing health care to everyone regardless of faith. The Sisters of St. Joseph of Toronto founded the local hospital, which has provided care for the people of Comox and adjoining Courtenay for more than 100 years.

But Reggler said, “It is completely unacceptable for a bricks-and-mortar, publicly-funded healthcare institution to claim a right to conscientious objection while denying patients in its care a rightful treatment option.” Reggler went on to say he hoped St. Joseph’s’ board, which includes a local Catholic pastor, would have the “courage” to defy the Catholic Church’s moral teachings on euthanasia and assisted suicide.

He added, “This is the cruelest hospital policy that I have ever encountered.”

CEO Jane Murphy issued a news release insisting the hospital responded to requests for Medical Assistance in Dying with “respect, support, compassion, and kindness and will do so without discrimination or coercion.” She added that the provincial health system provides for timely transfers of patients from hospitals not equipped to treat them.

“That’s why they call it a health system,” said Michael Shea, president of the Catholic Health Alliance of Canada, which represents 90 hospitals and care facilities across the country. “Lots of hospitals do not provide every service. St. Joseph’s may not provide heart transplants. Those who need one get moved somewhere else.”

The argument that any publicly-funded facility should thereby be obliged to provide every service is a red herring, Shea added. Privately-owned hospitals such as St. Joseph’s “contract with the government or the public health authority to provide a basket of services,” he told LifeSiteNews. “They get paid for the service.” No contract between two parties obliges either to provide what isn’t in the contract, he explained.

“For a publicly-owned hospital, it is obliged to follow government policy,” he said, but St. Joseph’s “basket” is open to negotiation.

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Nonetheless, Dying with Dignity, the principle lobby group for euthanasia and assisted suicide on demand, have persistently argued that Catholic hospitals should be forced to violate their belief that ending a life is wrong whether a patient wants to be killed or not.

“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,” Shanaaz Gokool, chief executive officer of Dying With Dignity Canada, told the National Post.

Many newspapers across Canada during the past two weeks have carried an op-ed piece by Ottawa law professor Daphne Gilbert claiming that faith-based hospitals have no religious right to deny a patient’s charter to MAID.

But Gilbert relied for her argument on the opinion in the recent Quebec v. Loyola High School of the minority opinion by three Supreme Court judges. They said only organizations devoted entirely to religious purposes could claim the Charter guarantee of religious freedom. However, the majority of the court admitted to no such restriction.

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