BY JOSH VAN OSTRAND
As the right to physician-assisted suicide in Canada is being legislated, Catholic hospitals have come forth, saying that they will not allow doctors in their employ to carry out that right.
And the Supreme Court supports them! Despite ruling that terminally ill patients have the right to physician-assisted suicide, the court decided that the religious right of a building, an ethereal entity of board members, has precedence over the rights of patients.
In guidelines published by the Catholic Health Alliance of Canada (CHAC), Catholics and Catholic organizations are asked to not allow physician-assisted suicide.
When the new legislation is enacted, doctors will have the right to refuse to partake in physician-assisted suicide as individuals. This makes sense, doctors are people with their own religious beliefs and the right to express them. The problem is that, as it stands, hospitals in Canada have the same religious rights as the doctors who serve them, and these rights trump the rights of doctors working there.
Would people not be enraged if Catholic hospitals declined care because of lifestyles deemed unchristian? So why are hospitals allowed to deny people’s rights based on religion? Similar dialogues took place over abortion when that was legalized. If you look for a Catholic hospital that allows abortion, without the impending death of the mother, you’ll find that the pickings are slim.
In a release published in 2005, during the first readings of Bill C-407, the right to die with dignity, the CHAC said physician-assisted suicide is “contrary to the practices of holistic health care, cannot be regulated to prevent abuses, and (is) inconsistent with Canada’s reputation as a protector of personal dignity and human rights.”
They claim it is contrary to holistic medicine but do doctors not swear to uphold the best interests of the patients? What patient would ask for prolonged suffering?
They claim that it cannot be regulated, but, while regulation may be difficult, it is far from impossible. A small council of doctors and specialists in medical ethics could consider each decision, rather than just one doctor.
When it comes to human rights, what is right about prolonging suffering? A hospital is an institution and like any other public institution, it has no right to religion. The CHAC should put patients first, letting them and their physicians decide their fate.