Following a first reading of the report of the Special Joint Committee on Physician Assisted Dying, the six Catholic bishops of Alberta welcomed recommendations advocating enhanced palliative care, but expressed deep disappointment about others. “Killing is not medicine,” they state. “This has no place in a just and ethical society.” (Alberta Bishops ‘deeply disappointed’ in federal report on assisted suicide)
Among the recommendations they criticized were two involving freedom of conscience and religion.
- “That the government of Canada work with the provinces and territories to ensure that all publicly funded health care institutions provide medical assistance in dying.” This is unacceptable at Catholic hospitals, which are committed to the compassionate care of patients to the natural end of life. Canadians have a right to be served by doctors and institutions that practice only medicine and are not involved in state-sponsored killing. They must not be deprived of access to such just because there are other citizens who desire assistance in committing suicide.
- “At a minimum, the objecting practitioner must provide an effective referral for the patient.” A physician who conscientiously objects to these practices must not be coerced into referring a patient to another professional for assisted suicide or to be euthanized. This would, in fact, be complicity and thus a violation of the person’s right to freedom of conscience. Furthermore, medical professionals who refuse for reasons of conscience direct or indirect participation must also be protected from intimidation and discrimination.