Protection of Conscience Project
Today the Protection of Conscience Project joined the Catholic Civil Rights League (CCRL) and Faith and Freedom Alliance in a joint intervention at the Supreme Court of Canada in Carter v. Canada, a case seeking the legalization of euthanasia and physician assisted suicide.
The appeal necessarily involves the issue of freedom of conscience for healthcare providers. An indeterminate number of healthcare providers consider killing patients or assisting in suicide morally or ethically abhorrent. Their views are consistent with the current Canadian legal framework, which would be fundamentally changed if euthanasia and assisted suicide were legalized. Such a change in the law would generate demands that physicians and other healthcare providers directly or indirectly participate in what they consider to be gravely immoral activities.
In the event that the Supreme Court strikes down the criminal law as it relates to euthanasia or assisted suicide, the intervention urged the Court to “make clear to the legislature that any legislation in this area must protect the freedom of conscience of healthcare providers,” ensuring that “healthcare providers are not directly or indirectly coerced into becoming parties to killing patients or assisting patients kill themselves.”
In a Backgrounder on the intervention, Project Administrator Sean Murphy notes the need for robust protection for freedom of conscience among healthcare providers if the law is changed. In that case, he argues, direction from the Court will be needed “to correct a dangerous error that has become increasingly widespread: that the state or a profession may impose upon people a duty to do what they believe to be wrong – even if that means killing people.”
Elsewhere, he observes that the history of abortion law reform in Canada demonstrates that healthcare providers “cannot rely on mere promises of tolerance and respect for freedom of conscience.”
” The greater the demand for a procedure -whether the demand arises from the number of patients or from ideological rights claims – the sooner objecting health care workers will face discrimination, harassment and coercion. ”
The intervention was presented on behalf of the interveners by Robert Staley, with the participation of Ranjan Agarwal, Jack Maslen, and Sheridan Scott, all of Bennett Jones LLP, together with CCRL President, Philip Horgan. 27 interventions were approved by the Court.
A decision is expected in the Spring of 2015.