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MONTREAL, September 22, 2015 (LifeSiteNews) – Quebec's health minister, Gaetan Barrette, has threatened to discipline doctors at the University of Montreal Health Centre for refusing to provide assisted suicide when it becomes legal on December 10, while euthanasia advocates urge him to defund the province's 29 hospices, who have also said they will not help their patients die.

“It is the administrative fundamentalism,” Barrette is quoted in La Presse as saying of the unanimous decision by the hospices. “They will force people in later life housed within their walls to move to access medical help to die? It boggles the mind.”

The Parti Québécois MNA and euthanasia critic Véronique Hivon also expressed  shock at the hospices' “block position taken, without nuance, by all of the 29 palliative care centres in Quebec.”

Predictably, Right to Die with Dignity's Helene Bolduc agreed. “That an institution in a secular state which receives funding from the public and (donations) from the general public would impose such a decision, I find it scandalous. “

“There is irony!” responded Dr. Catherine Ferrier, head of Living with Dignity and The Physicians Alliance Against Euthanasia. “They claim they are protecting the rights of one group while they take away the rights of another. But they have known for five years that nobody involved in palliative care wants anything to do with assisted suicide or euthanasia.”

Cutting funds to hospices will only hurt patients, Ferrier told LifeSiteNews. “The population must be aware that these ideologues are about to severely damage, if not ruin, our palliative care network[.]”

“We ask all our members to come to the defense of palliative care providers who are currently the target of a true campaign of intimidation that will only increase in the coming months if we do not speak out,” Ferrier added.

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No politician should be  surprised, said Dr. Michel L'Heureux, a physician at one such hospice, La Maison Michel Sarrazin: “Medical aid in dying is not part of our understanding of palliative care. … It is a paradox that the government moved forward while the experts in the field were saying not to do that.”

That goes not only for private hospices, but for doctors at public hospitals. The staff at the University of Montreal health center's palliative unit have also voted to do no assisted suicides. “Everyone was against it, it was unanimous. It was predictable given the briefs that were tabled in commission,” said Dr. Serge Daneault, referring to a commission set up to look into assisted suicide.

Barrette has threatened to discipline doctors at the university hospital by taking away their visiting privileges. But Ferrier told LifeSiteNews, “The majority of doctors in palliative care at all of Quebec's hospitals don't want to do assisted suicide. It is a problem for administrators. Do they move patients out of the palliative care units if they request assisted suicide?”

The Physicians Alliance Against Euthanasia insists that doctors have the right to refuse both to provide assisted suicide and to refer patients to doctors who are willing, which is guaranteed in Quebec's law legalizing assisted suicide, Bill 52, and in the Supreme Court of Canada's Carter decision, which legalized it nationally last year.

Larry Worthen, executive director of the Christian Dental and Medical Association of Canada, which is firmly opposed to assisted suicide, told LifeSiteNews, “We would assert that doctors have a fundamental right to refuse to participate in assisted suicide and euthanasia.” He said the Charter of Rights and Freedoms declares freedom of conscience a “fundamental freedom” along with freedom of religion, of speech, expression and assembly.”

“What's more,” he said, “the Supreme Court of Canada, in the Carter Decision [which legalized assisted suicide last year], also declared no doctor can be forced to participate against their conscience in euthanasia or assisted suicide.” Participation, he added, includes referral to other doctors. “Both ways, you are participating in something you believe is bad for the patient.”

As for the private hospices, Jean Pierre Menard, the lawyer who headed the commission that looked into and recommended legalizing assisted suicide, has recommended that the government take away their $68,000-per-year, per-bed funding.

“Part of the funding of hospices is public,” Menard told reporters. “As a society, we may wonder if we should continue to pay. Do we agree to fund a school that does not apply the curriculum of the Ministry? It compromises the right of citizens to access care.”

While Bill 52 requires all “health facilities” to provide assisted suicide, hospices are not considered health facilities. What has evidently surprised Barrette and other euthanasia advocates is the unanimity of the conscientious objection.

The government has apparently believed its own propaganda, which, according to Dr. Eugene Bereza, director of the Centre for Applied Ethics at the McGill University Health Centre, framed euthanasia as being part of a seamless “continuum, along the lines of [euthanasia] being the end part of palliative care.” In its initial draft of Bill 52, the government even termed euthanasia a form of palliative care but rewrote this after palliative care groups protested.

Palliative care doctors, Ferrier told LifeSiteNews, simply want nothing to do with killing the patients whose final days and weeks they try to make so comfortable.