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OTTAWA, February 25, 2016 (LifeSiteNews) — Doctors must “at minimum” provide their patients an “effective referral” for assisted suicide and euthanasia, according to recommendations by the federal parliamentary committee in its report released today.
The committee also recommended that not only physicians, but nurses and nurse practitioners be called upon to euthanize their patients, or assist them to commit suicide.
“They’re telling doctors that they must send their patient to the executioner,” says Alex Schadenberg, executive director of the Euthanasia Prevention Coalition.
“This is discrimination. It is unnecessary. No other jurisdiction in the world requires physicians to refer for assisted death,” noted Larry Worthen of the Coalition for HealthCARE and Conscience, which represents about 5,000 physicians across the country.
“In our view, effective referral and participating in assisted death are morally and ethically the same thing,” added Worthen, who is also executive director of the Christian Medical and Dental Society of Canada.
“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.”
The all-party special committee of 11 MPs and five senators has been tasked with providing a framework for a new law governing assisted suicide and euthanasia after Supreme Court struck down the existing prohibition in February 2015, a ruling that takes effect on June 6, 2016.
The committee heard from 61 witnesses and received over 100 written briefs, and its February 25 report contains 21 recommendations for a legislative response to what it consistently refers to as “MAID” — medical assistance in dying.
While the report acknowledged that health care professionals do have conscience rights, it stated that requiring physicians to provide an “effective referral” is “an appropriate balancing of the rights of patients and the conscience rights of physicians.”
Its recommendation 10 notes that: “At a minimum, the objecting practitioner must provide an effective referral for the patient.”
“Effective referral” has already been defined by the College of Physicians and Surgeons of Ontario (CPSO), Schadenberg noted. According to a policy the College finalized in January, physicians who object to assisted suicide or euthanasia must give their patients an “effective referral.”
“They’re telling doctors that they must send their patient to the executioner.”
That’s “not just a referral, but a referral to someone who will do it, or someone who will arrange it,” Schadenberg pointed out. “Either way, it’s a referral for the purpose of death.”
And the committee also stated it “believes…that if a health care facility is publicly funded, it must provide MAID” — assisted suicide or euthanasia.
It recommended that the federal Liberals “work with the provinces and territories to ensure that all publicly funded health care institutions provide medical assistance in dying.”
The Coalition for HealthCARE and Conscience is “shocked” at this recommendation, stated Worthen, which 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.
“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.”
He says the Coalition has a proposal that respects both conscience rights of doctors and institutions but “without interfering with the patient’s choice for assisted death.”
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“The bottom line is that our members should not be forced to act against their conscience. This should not be imposed upon them,” Worthen said.
Toronto’s Cardinal Thomas Collins and Worthen spoke to the federal committee February 3 on behalf of the Coalition, and Collins insisted the government must protect conscience rights of both individuals and institutions, including the right not to refer.
Collins also told the committee that Catholic institutions are “not ‘things.’ They’re communities of people. They have values and that’s why people come to them,” and they are “funded by the government because they do immense good work.”
Schadenberg decried the committee’s report as “very bad,” noting the system it recommended could lead “to wide open abuse.”
And four of the committee’s MPs, Conservatives Mark Warawa, Michael Cooper, Gerard Deltell, and Harold Albrecht, opposed the recommendations, stating in a dissenting report that there must be more safeguards for vulnerable people.