About 30 hospitals opting out of Colorado’s medical aid-in-dying law

Three major health systems have announced they will not participate

The Denver Post

Jennifer Brown

Up to 30 Colorado hospitals are opting out of the state’s new medical aid-in-dying law, either fully or in part, but whether that means the doctors they employ are banned from writing life-ending prescriptions is a controversy that could wind up in court.

At this point, terminally ill Coloradans who want to end their lives under the law will need to find out whether their physicians are allowed to participate.

Three major health systems with 30 hospitals among them — Centura Health and SCL Health System, both religiously affiliated, and HealthOne — have announced they will not participate in the law. What that means for doctors, though, varies by system. . . [Full text]


Swedish anti-abortion midwife sues officials in job claim

BBC News

A Swedish midwife who refuses to carry out abortions is appealing to a labour tribunal after being turned down for jobs at local clinics three times.

Ellinor Grimmark objects to abortions because of her Christian beliefs. It is seen as a test case, partly because a big US Christian group is backing her.

The US Alliance Defending Freedom (ADF) is a partner of her legal team – Scandinavian Human Rights Lawyers.

In 2015 a district court rejected her discrimination complaint.

Ms Grimmark is suing the Joenkoeping regional health authority. The appeal hearing is still under way, and the verdict is expected in a few weeks’ time.

Under the 2015 court ruling, she was ordered to pay the authorities’ legal costs.

Sweden’s discrimination ombudsman also ruled against her. . . [Full text]


Doctor-assisted suicide could save Canada up to $139 million each year, Alberta study suggests

Based on European data, the researchers estimate docter-assisted suicide will eventually play a role in one to four per cent of all deaths in Canada

National Post

Sharon Kirkey

Doctor-assisted suicide could save Canada tens of millions of dollars annually by avoiding costly “end-of-life” care, according to a provocative new analysis.

The savings — up to $139 million annually — will almost certainly dwarf the costs associated with helping dying patients kill themselves, University of Calgary researchers report.

The authors go to pains to state they aren’t suggesting people be voluntarily euthanized to save money. “Neither patients nor physicians should consider costs when making the very personal decision to request, or provide, this intervention,” they write in this week’s issue of the Canadian Medical Association Journal. . . .[Full text]


Vancouver Island reports B.C.’s highest assisted death rate

‘This is a much more rapid rise than happened in the Netherlands,’ says Island Health doctor

CBC News

Deborah Wilson

Six months after medically assisted death became legal in Canada it is proving particularly popular on Vancouver Island.

From June 17, 2016 when Bill C-14 was enacted to Jan.10 2017, 188 medically assisted deaths were reported to the BC Coroners Service.

Of that number, 77 were residents of Vancouver Island, which has a population of about 760,000.

It represents two per cent of all deaths on the Island during that time, according to Dr. David Robertson, the executive lead on medical aid in dying for Island Health. . . [Full text]


Alberta rate of physician-assisted suicide climbs to four or five a week

Calgary Sun

Bill Kaufmann

The rate of those choosing physician-assisted death in Alberta continues to increase and more are opting out of dying at home, say Alberta Health Services officials.

Since Feb. 6 when the procedure was made possible, 76 people in the province have taken that route to end their lives, which in Alberta is through the intravenous delivery of drugs.

In the week from Jan. 9 to 16, five more people died with the assistance of a physician, a process that became fully legal last June.

That pace has been a surprise to medical practitioners, said Dr. James Silvius, the AHS’s lead for medical assistance in dying. . . .[Full text]


Pastoral document may allow those opting for assisted dying sacraments

Atlantic bishops’ assisted-suicide document may impact conscience rights say some observers

BC Catholic

Deborah Gypaong

Critics of the Atlantic bishops’ new pastoral document on assisted dying say it could open the way in some cases to reception of the sacraments for those who decide to end their lives.

The Atlantic Episcopal Assembly (AEA) document stresses compassionate accompaniment for those contemplating euthanasia or assisted suicide, but it may ultimately weaken conscience rights for Catholic health-care workers and Catholic institutions, say some observers. . . .[Full text]


Death Row Doctor

New York Times

Lauren Knapp

One of the core pillars of medicine is “do no harm.” So how do the physicians who take part in the American institution of capital punishment rationalize their involvement? This film profiles Carlo Musso, a doctor who contemplates his moral compass as he participates in executions, though he personally opposes capital punishment. . . .[Full text]

Ontario MPP promises to dig in to defend conscience rights of healthcare providers, workers

LifeSite News

Lianne Laurence

TORONTO, January 16, 2016 (LifeSiteNews) — Progressive Conservative MPP Monte McNaughton says he’s ready to “fight tooth and nail” for conscience rights of healthcare workers and institutions in Ontario.

The province’s doctors are facing a “globally unprecedented” attack on conscience rights from the College of Physicians and Surgeons of Ontario, the 39-year-old MPP for Lambton-Kent-Middlesex told LifeSiteNews.

“I’ve talked to many healthcare administrators and healthcare providers,” McNaughton said. “There’s just huge concerns because people don’t think that anyone should have to go against their conscience when it comes to assisted suicide.” . . . [Full text]


Tolerance, Professional Judgment, and the Discretionary Space of the Physician

Daneil P. Sulmasy

Arguments against physicians’ claims of a right to refuse to provide tests or treatments to patients based on conscientious objection often depend on two premises that are rarely made explicit. The first is that the protection of religious liberty (broadly construed) should be limited to freedom of worship, assembly, and belief. The second is that because professions are licensed by the state, any citizen who practices a licensed profession is required to provide all the goods and services determined by the profession to fall within the scope of practice of that professional specialty and permitted by the state, regardless of any personal religious, philosophical, or moral objection. In this article, I argue that these premises ought to be rejected, and therefore the arguments that depend on them ought also to be rejected. The first premise is incompatible with Locke’s conception of tolerance, which recognizes that fundamental, self-identifying beliefs affect public as well as private acts and deserve a broad measure of tolerance. The second premise unduly (and unrealistically) narrows the discretionary space of professional practice to an extent that undermines the contributions professions ought to be permitted to make to the common good. Tolerance for conscientious objection in the public sphere of professional practice should not be unlimited, however, and the article proposes several commonsense, Lockean limits to tolerance for physician claims of conscientious objection.

Sulmasy DP. Tolerance, Professional Judgment, and the Discretionary Space of the Physician. Camb Q Healthc Ethics. 2017 Jan;26(1):18-31.

How to Allow Conscientious Objection in Medicine While Protecting Patient Rights

Aaron Ancell, Walter Sinnott-Armstrong

Paradigmatic cases of conscientious objection in medicine are those in which a physician refuses to provide a medical service or good because doing so would conflict with that physician’s personal moral or religious beliefs. Should such refusals be allowed in medicine? We argue that (1) many conscientious objections to providing certain services must be allowed because they fall within the range of freedom that physicians have to determine which services to offer in their practices; (2) at least some conscientious objections to serving particular groups of patients should be allowed because they are not invidiously discriminatory; and (3) even in cases of invidiously discriminatory conscientious objections, legally prohibiting individual physicians from refusing to serve patients on the basis of such objections is not always the best solution.

Ancell A, Sinnott-Armstrong W. How to Allow Conscientious Objection in Medicine While Protecting Patient Rights. Camb Q Healthc Ethics. 2017 Jan;26(1):120-131.