Faith is accommodated In Australia, but there is piecemeal protection for religious freedom.
Australia is a multi-faith society. The 2016 Census shows that, while the mix of beliefs has changed over the years, Australia remains a pretty religious place.
In the last census, nearly 70% of Australians self-identified as religious. The number of Australians who have self-identified as Christian in the census has fallen from 88.2% in 1966 to 52.1% in 2016.
The number of Australians identifying as being of another religion has grown from 0.8% to 8.2%, with Islam (2.6%), Buddhism (2.4%) and Hinduism (1.9%) being the largest non-Christian faiths.
The number who self-identified in the category of “no religion” has grown from 0.8% to 30.1%. This category includes having secular beliefs, other spiritual beliefs or having no religion. This makes it hard to be sure what these Australians believe. . . [Full text]
Doctors attending a session on medical aid in dying at the Canadian Medical Association (CMA) General Council supported the use of advance directives and allowing mature minors to access assisted death. However, they split on opening up the service to otherwise healthy people with mental illness.
In a poll, 83% said they would support the use of advance directives to request medical aid in dying in cases where a person was otherwise unable to give consent. Some 69% would support opening the service to “mature minors,” including cases in which a guardian might request assisted death for a terminally ill infant, for example. However, after roundtable discussions, less than half (46%) of doctors polled said they would support assisted death on the basis of mental illness alone. . . [Full text]
The Globe and Mail
Canada’s doctors, who have never been staunch supporters of medically assisted death, now seem to be open to a liberalization of the law.
A straw poll conducted on Wednesday at the Canadian Medical Association annual meeting found that 83 per cent of delegates supported allowing “advance directives” – meaning, for example, that people with dementia could, while they are still competent, decide they want an assisted death at a later time.
The informal poll of the 600 delegates also found that 67 per cent backed the idea of “mature minors” being allowed to access assisted death. (A mature minor is someone under 18 who is deemed mature enough to make decisions about their own medical treatment.)
Physicians, however, were far less enthusiastic about allowing assisted death for patients whose sole problem is mental illness: Only 51 per cent backed that idea.
Similar CMA straw polls showed that, in 2013, only 34 per cent of doctors supported assisted dying legislation; that rose to 45 per cent in 2014. . . [Full text]
Ines San Martin
ROME – After a two-year debate in Congress, Chile’s constitutional court has voted to approve a bill lifting the country’s total ban on abortion. The measure, that had the full support of President Michelle Bachelet, was criticized by the bishops, who said it “offends the conscience and the common good of the citizens.”
The legislation also gives no exemption to religious institutions, and conscience rights are offered only limited protection. . . [Full text]
Australian Broadcasting Corporation
You may think you have to make some pretty tough decisions at work, but it doesn’t get much tougher than choosing whether to help someone die.
Doctors are grappling with their personal and professional beliefs about death and their role in it as politicians in Victoria consider assisted dying laws.
Opinion polls show the majority of people support voluntary assisted dying, but those who would have to administer it are divided.
Polls suggest around 75 per cent of people support assisted dying for the terminally ill, but only 40 per cent of doctors agreed in a recent survey by the Australian Medical Association. . . [Full text]
Some doctors in California felt uncomfortable last year when a new law began allowing terminally ill patients to request lethal medicines, saying their careers had been dedicated to saving lives, not ending them.
Many healthcare systems designed protocols for screening people who say they’re interested in physician-assisted death, including some that were meant to dissuade patients from taking up the option.
But physicians across the state say the conversations that health workers are having with patients are leading to patients’ fears and needs around dying being addressed better than ever before. They say the law has improved medical care for sick patients, even those who don’t take advantage of it.
“One doctor said we should be able to order the End of Life Option Act without the drugs,” said Dr. Neil Wenger, director of the UCLA Health Ethics Center. “It really has created a new standard for how we ought to be helping people at the end of life.” . . . [Full text]
Earlier this year a group of Catholic hospitals and clinics for the mentally ill in Belgium announced that it would allow doctors to perform euthanasia on its premises. The group is linked to a religious order, the Brothers of Charity.
Earlier this month Pope Francis issued an ultimatum: this must stop by the end of August. He also ordered the three Brothers who serve on the 15-member board to sign a letter stating that they “fully support the vision of the magisterium of the Catholic Church, which has always confirmed that human life must be respected and protected in absolute terms, from the moment of conception till its natural end.”
If the board refuses, the hospitals could lose their affiliation with the Catholic Church.
One of the board members is Herman Van Rompuy, a former President of the European Council and Belgian Prime Minister. He tweeted that “The time of ‘Roma locuta causa finita’ is long past.”
Brother René Stockman, the head of the Brothers of Charity, is a Belgian but opposes the stand taken by the local members of his own order. He commented: “The central point and the foundation within Christian ethics is that life is absolute, which cannot be touched. Life is a gift from God and entails an assignment. And because life is absolute, it is a state worthy of protection.”
A spokesman for the Belgian group acknowledged that it had received a letter from the Vatican but said that it had not yet responded.
This article was published by Michael Cook and BioEdge under a Creative Commons licence. You may republish it or translate it free of charge with attribution for non-commercial purposes following these guidelines. If you teach at a university we ask that your department make a donation to BioEdge. Commercial media must contact BioEdge for permission and fees.
As euthanasia rates increase in the Canadian province of Ontario, pressure is mounting on Catholic Healthcare providers to abandon their blanket opposition to Medical Assistance in Dying (MAiD).
Over 630 Ontarians have received MAiD since the procedure was legalised in Canada in 2015, according to data from the provincial coroner, yet none of these cases has taken place in a Catholic healthcare facility.
Lobby groups are now calling for sanctions on Catholic healthcare providers, particularly in light of the public funding these providers receive.
Dying With Dignity Canada CEO Shanaaz Gokool told CBA News that her organisation is considering a legal challenge of Catholic hospitals’ right to conscientiously object to participation in euthanasia.
Gokool says that the Catholic healthcare policy of transferring MAiD patients to secular facilities places an undue burden on patients. “It really depends on how precarious their physical medical condition is,” she said. “And if they are in a precarious state physically, then that can cause them more trauma.”
Ontario health minister Eric Hoskins said that access to MAiD was not currently a problem. “We’re obviously monitoring it very, very closely and currently don’t have those concerns in terms of access,” he told CBA News. “And about half of medical assistance in dying happens at home”.
This article was published by Xavier Symons and BioEdge under a Creative Commons licence. You may republish it or translate it free of charge with attribution for non-commercial purposes following these guidelines. If you teach at a university we ask that your department make a donation to BioEdge. Commercial media must contact BioEdge for permission and fees.
Kevin J. Jones
TORONTO, Canada – Conscience protections for Catholic hospitals and other organizations could soon come under fire in the Canadian province of Ontario, with one assisted suicide group saying they may challenge this legislation in court.
Deacon Larry Worthen, executive director of the Christian Medical and Dental Society of Canada, warned that it becomes very difficult to defend objections to assisted suicide once it becomes legal.
“Of course our position would be that there should be no requirement for faith-based institutions to be involved in assisted suicide or euthanasia,” the deacon said. “It’s appropriate that not only the institution, but the individuals should be protected as well.” . . . [Full text]
In early August, an international group of abortion advocates met in Uruguay to discuss the potential removal of conscience protections for healthcare providers with regard to abortion.
Religious freedom is an obstacle to women’s health, according to conference organizer International Women’s Health Coalition (IWHC). The group encourages advocates to ensure “that professional bodies recognize that personal beliefs can seriously undermine the provision of women-centered, professional health services.” . . . [Full Text]