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Religious Tolerance logo

Physician Assisted Suicide (PAS) in
Canada: the Carter v. Canada lawsuit

Part 12 of thirteen parts

2016-FEB/MAR:
More reactions to the federal
Government report on PAS.
Terminally ill individual in Alberta
receives court permission for PAS.
TV video on PAS.

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This topic is continued from the previous essay

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Reactions outside of the federal Government to the Committee report (Continued):

  • The Canadian Conference of Catholic Bishops (CCCB) criticized the tentative recommendations made by the committee. In particular, they criticized:
    • Recommendation 10. It states:

      "At a minimum, the objecting practitioner must provide an effective referral for the patient." 1

      That would be unacceptable to many Physicians because they feel that for one doctor to refer a patient to another doctor would mean that the former physician would believe that they had actively contributing to the patient's early death. They might consider that to make them an accomplice to a murder. That would be a mortal sin.

    • Recommendation 11 states that health care institutions which are funded by the government must provide assistance to patients who are terminally ill, in chronic uncontrollable pain, and want to end their life. The Conference of Catholic Bishops from Alberta wrote:

      "This is unacceptable at Catholic hospitals, which are committed to the compassionate care of patients to the natural end of life. ... Canadians have a right to be served by doctors and institutions that practice only medicine and are not involved in state-sponsored killing. They must not be deprived of access to such just because there are other citizens who desire assistance in committing suicide." 1

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Webmaster's comment:

Many physicians will be caught in a conflict when MAID is implemented across Canada.

  • On one hand, they do not want to violate their faith group's command to not be involved, even peripherally, in allowing their patients access to "Death with Dignity." For many doctors, to merely refer a patient to another doctor would be an excessive personal involvement in the patient's death.

  • On the other hand, they may feel obligated to follow Jesus' directive in Matthew 7:12 and Luke 6:31. These passages refer to what is called the Golden Rule: commanding a person to treat others as that person would like to be treated by others in return. This is formally called "The Ethics of Reciprocity" and are found in all of the major religions and in many cultures. Physicians have dedicated their life to relieving suffering. Sometimes people's agony cannot be lifted with medication and palliative care. Only giving them assistance in dying will end their pain.

This same conflict has arisen the the U.S. over gay marriages, mainly when the owner of a for-profit public accommodation has refuses to supply marriage-related goods and services to a same-sex couple in violation of municipal or state human rights legislation. A "public accommodation" is a facility that provides goods and services to the general public. Also, a few county clerks have refused to supply marriage licenses to same-sex couples in violation of their oath of office and the U.S. Constitution. To our knowledge, all such incidents to date that have been mentioned in the media have been motivated by the owner's or clerk's conservative Christian beliefs.

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2016-FEB-29: Calgary woman with ALS was granted physician-assisted death:

A woman in Calgary, identified only as "Ms. S," is dying from ALS, (a.k.a. Amyotrophic Lateral Sclerosis, or Lou Geherig's Disease). She applied to the Court of Queen's Bench of Alberta for permission to obtain a doctor-assisted death. The court said that her application was believed to be the first in Canada outside of Quebec, where enabling legislation had been passed during 2015. 2

She received permission and went to British Columbia where she had arranged for two doctors to help her end her life.

The Alberta court ruling quotes her words:

"I am not suffering from anxiety or depression or fear of death. I would like to pass away peacefully and am hoping to have physician-assisted death soon. I do not wish to have continued suffering and to die of this illness by choking. I feel that my time has come to go in peace. ..."

"As I look back upon my life prior to this illness which began three years ago, I feel happy, as I have had a very healthy, productive and fulfilled life. She states that despite their challenges, [she and her spouse] ... have managed to keep a positive attitude and remain strong. She says their nine-year relationship has been the happiest of her life."

Her doctors have estimated that she had less than six month life expectancy. She is being fed through a tube. She cannot speak, and is almost completely paralyzed, being only able to move her "left hand a little."

Shanaaz Gokool, CEO of Dying with Dignity Canada said:

"I think it’s very rare to read court documents where a human face really comes forward, and they really have acknowledged her suffering and come up with an expedited process. The ruling is one that reflects that on Feb. 29, when the ruling came down, that compassion has won the day for this individual, Ms. S.. And we hope the Alberta court process presents itself as the model during the interim process, so that people who meet the eligibility criteria will be able to access their Charter right to an assisted death."

Erika Tucker, writing for Global News, said that Ms. S is a:

"... long-time Calgary resident, ... [a] retired clinical psychologist, who worked in a psychiatric hospital for four years, followed by three decades in the health care system. Before she became sick, she was physically active and in good physical and mental health. ... She was an award-winning dancer for many years, dancing three or four nights per week. She also loved reading, music, opera and studying languages." 2

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A Global-TV video about the Alberta court's ruling:

 3

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This topic continues in the next essay.

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References used:

The following information sources were used to prepare and update the above essay. The hyperlinks are not necessarily still active today.

  1. "Canadian bishops blast Parliamentary report’s embrace of ‘state-sponsored killing," Life Site News, 2016-FEB-29, at: https://www.lifesitenews.com/
  2. Erika Tucker, "Calgary woman with ALS first in Alberta to be granted physician-assisted death," Global News, 2016-MAR-01, at: http://globalnews.ca/
  3. Video on the above story, at: http://globalnews.ca/

Site navigation: Home page > "Hot" topics  > Assisted Suicide > Canada > here

or: Home page > "Hot" topics  > Suicide menu > Assisted Suicide> Canada > here

Copyright © 2016, by Ontario Consultants on Religious Tolerance
Original posting: 2016-MAR-03
Latest update: 2016-MAR-04
Author: B.A. Robinson

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