In 2015, the Canadian Supreme Court ruled — unanimously — that patients with severe medical problems could legally ask their doctors to help end their lives.
The Court gave the government a year to implement new laws taking the decision into account, which they failed to do even after a four-month extension, but the law eventually passed in June. Physician-assisted death is now legal in the country for anyone 18 or older, a Canadian citizen, mentally competent, suffering from a “serious and incurable disease, illness or disability,” and in an “‘advanced state of irreversible decline,’ with enduring and intolerable suffering.”
None of that, however, is okay with Catholics who believe euthanasia is a sin. Last year, we posted about an 87-year-old man who was in enormous pain and wanted to end life on his own terms. However the staff at St. Paul’s Hospital in Vancouver refused to assist him.
He spent the last several hours of his life trying to transfer to a new hospital — the ambulance was three hours late and the ride was bumpy enough to amplify his pain — where someone could take care of him because the taxpayer-funded Catholic institution had abdicated its responsibility. He eventually died at Vancouver General Hospital with the help of a physician, but not before experiencing hours of unimaginable pain.
Just like Jesus wanted.
The thing about some of these Catholic hospitals, however, is that the staffers don’t always agree with the Catholic Church. Doctors work there for a variety of reasons, and most of them have no reason to worry that their expertise would ever go against Catholic doctrine.
But physician-assisted death is a unique situation. That’s why the board of St. Boniface Hospital in Manitoba decided that medical assistance in dying (MAID) would be permitted in “rare circumstances.”
The new policy was also based on feedback from doctors and nurses. An April 2016 letter from Marcus Blouw, then-president of St. Boniface medical staff, included the results of an informal survey of staff showing majority support for assisted dying.
In the letter, Blouw wrote only eight per cent of staff believed assisted dying has no place at St. Boniface Hospital.
Forty per cent responded that conversations, counselling, information-sharing and assessments related to medically assisted dying must be available at the hospital.
The majority of people, 52 per cent, said that assisted dying must be available to all Canadians in any institution that receives public funding, regardless of that institution’s historical or religious affiliations.
The hospital’s president, Bruce Roe, said the survey showed staff want to be able to continue supporting patients.
So there was overwhelming support within the hospital for various aspects of assisted dying to be made available to patients — and a majority of the staff wanted the hospital to follow the law and make the procedure available for patients who qualified for and requested the help.
No wonder the board passed the policy.
Unfortunately, St. Boniface Hospital doesn’t get the final say in the matter. Despite being publicly funded, the hospital is managed by the Catholic Health Corp. of Manitoba, and the policy had to go through them.
So the CHCM did something downright nefarious.
They appointed 10 new members to the St. Boniface Hospital board of directors, which already had 16 people on it, and asked for a revote.
Wouldn’t you know it? The new board voted down the Be-Less-Cruel policy.
In the June 1 letter requesting the “re-vote,” CHCM chief executive officer Daniel Lussier made clear assisted dying, even in limited forms, would be “contrary to the ethical commitments of the health-care and social service organizations that CHCM controls.”
On Monday, the new board — minus two original members, including its former chairman — passed the unamended policy banning assisted dying at St. Boniface.
That’s religion for you. It doesn’t matter what people want. It doesn’t matter how awful or misguided your thinking is. It’s Catholic doctrine and therefore it’s set in stone… until someone further up the chain decides to change it.
Patients will suffer because Catholics refuse to have compassion for the people who need help the most. Keep in mind that very few people meet the qualifications to even request this procedure. It’s not like the original policy meant anyone could just demand death and doctors would have to go along with it. And realize that most people don’t get to choose which hospital they go to in the event of an emergency.
There is no rational justification to overturn the policy. And using a loophole to shoot it down sends a strong message to the doctors and administrators at that hospital that their expertise can be ignored and their wisdom doesn’t matter because the Vatican knows better than everyone.
(Image via Shutterstock. Large portions of this article were published earlier. Thanks to Dorothy for the link)