Protection of Conscience Project
Protection of Conscience Project
Service, not Servitude

Service, not Servitude

From Abortion to Euthanasia: Nurses on the Spot

Transcript from "Euthanasia: A Right to Die?"
Canadian Broadcasting Corporation
10 November, 1991

British Columbia, Canada

During a Canadian Broadcasting Corporation televised forum on euthanasia, a member of the audience objected to the use of the term "contract killer" by Cecilia Von Dehn, panelist representing Nurses for Life.

Von Dehn's explanation was challenged by panelist Eike-Henner Kluge, consultant in biomedical ethics and professor of philosophy in the University of Victoria, British Columbia. [Administrator]
VD: Cecilia Von Dehn
EK: Eike Kluge

VD: Maybe I can answer that. You see the nurses are employed by the government. We are employed to carry out hospital hiring policies. Um, I could be weeded out if I don't go along with euthanasia. I have a contract. I have my nurse's, my RNABC contract as well. If it becomes a policy under the RNABC, if it becomes a policy under the hospital hiring policy, I am in contract to kill. It's as simple as that.

EK: With, with all respect, that's not true. It always has been and will continue to be a policy of any professional medical organization or nursing organization, if you object to a particular procedure as a matter of conscience, you have the right to say so, and to be excused from that, and you will not be disciplined for that.

Linda Bradley (LB), a member of the audience, joins the discussion.  She contradicts Professor Kluge by explaining how she had lost her job for refusing to participate in a late term abortion [See Nurse refused employment, forced to resign].

LB: I'd like to make a comment on Dr. Kluge's statement earlier about caregivers being protected in the hospitals. Speaking from personal experience, I was working as a registered nurse in the operating room. I was assigned to do a hysterotomy. Uh, for those unfamiliar with the term, that is, is a caesarean section for the sole purpose of removing the fetus and allowing the fetus to die. And, refusing to do this procedure, I was asked to resign from the hospital. I went to the Human Rights Commission. I was asked, "What religion are you?"

I said, "I am a Catholic."

And they said, "Fine, great, you can fight it on Cath...on, on religious grounds."

I said, "No. Just because I am Catholic is not for, is, is not a position for me to take a stand. I know inherently, 'Thou shalt not kill' is wrong, and it is not because I am a Catholic that it is wrong to kill."

Human Rights denied, denied me the right to pursue my right to employment because they said there is no grounds for morical, moral or ethical beliefs. Only religious beliefs. And yet, earlier, and yesterday, you said religious, we, we, should not enforce our religious beliefs on society, and yet, my moral beliefs are not respected, and I lose, lost my job.

EK: I'm very sorry that this has happened to you, obviously, as all of us are. And my reaction to that is very simple. RNABC has its own rules. The Registered Nurses Association of British Columbia has its own rules, which indicate very clearly that on matters of conscience, the nurse has the right to exempt herself from particular services. If they did not defend you, I would be willing to go right with you, right now, and take it up with them. This is a matter of right, and I will take it right up to the Supreme Court if necessary.

LB: The RNABC made the statement that the rights of the hospital come first. And because I was assigned to work in the operating room, I must be willing to per, perform every procedure in the operating room, and that if I refused, then other nurses will refuse, and there would be anarchy. Anarchy. No, the hospital's rights come first. According to them.

VD: That's absolutely true, absolutely true.