Health minister defends hospital’s right not to allow medically assisted deaths

Winnipeg Sun

Joyanne Pursaga

Manitoba’s health minister stepped up to defend a Winnipeg hospital Tuesday, over its hotly criticized reversal on providing medically assisted deaths.

Minister Kelvin Goertzen said the province won’t oppose St. Boniface Hospital’s faith-based decision not to allow medical assistance in dying (MAID), even after saying it would in some cases.

“We think that we’ve struck the right balance by ensuring that there is access to MAID but also ensuring that those individual rights and those hospitals that are uncomfortable with the procedure can also have their rights respected as well,” said Goertzen.

On May 29, St. Boniface Hospital voted to allow medically assisted deaths under undefined “special circumstances.” But the hospital’s owner, the Catholic Health Corporation of Manitoba (CHCM), then appointed 10 new board members to cast a June 12 vote that completely banned assisted deaths once again, meaning patients who want them will still have to be transferred. . . [Full text]


Not referring patients for euthanasia is a matter of conscience

Re: Balancing one right with another for access to assisted dying, June 14

Toronto Star

Lucas Vivas

Mr. Warren misrepresents what is meant in medicine by a referral. In referring a patient to another physician, I make a pledge of responsibility to that patient that I am acting in their best interest. Whether that other physician proceeds or not with a given intervention is immaterial to my duty to only refer for the good of the patient. . . [Full text]


St. Boniface ban on medically assisted death a breach of charter rights, doctor says

Board of Winnipeg Catholic hospital overturned policy granting assisted death in rare circumstances

CBC News

Erin Brohman

The outgoing president of the St. Boniface Hospital medical staff believes the Winnipeg hospital’s policy to deny medically assisted death violates the charter rights of some of the most vulnerable patients.

Medical assistance in dying, or MAID, will not be provided at St. Boniface Hospital after the board, which manages the hospital, voted against it on June 12.

Dr. Marcus Blouw, a former member of the St. Boniface board, disagrees that the current board — largely compiled of those without clinical expertise, he said — should be able to overrule the decisions of patients and clinicians. . . [Full text]


Canadian euthanasia/assisted suicide law: meaning of “reasonably foreseeable” clarified

Advocates hail judge’s decision in woman’s assisted death appeal

Toronto Star

Alysha Hasham

A 77-year-old woman seeking medical assistance in dying has a “reasonably foreseeable” natural death, a judge declared Monday in an attempt to clear up uncertainty that left her doctor unwilling to perform the end-of-life procedure for fear of a murder charge.

The decision has been hailed by advocates for clarifying a confusing part of the assisted-dying legislation.

Two doctors found that the woman, known under a publication ban as AB, qualified for medical assistance in dying.

But the first doctor later said he was “uncomfortable” performing the procedure because another doctor had disagreed that the woman met the requirement of a reasonably foreseeable natural death, and because of the vagueness of the term “reasonably foreseeable.” . . . [Full text]


Critics decry St. Boniface Hospital for banning medical-assisted deaths

‘They’re not taking into account people’s end-of-life comfort,’ says ethics professor Arthur Schafer

CBC News
St. Boniface General Hospital’s decision to forbid medical-assisted deaths is drawing condemnation from end-of-life care advocates and an expert on medical ethics.

Arthur Schafer, a founder of the University of Manitoba’s Centre for Professional and Applied Ethics, described the recent board decision to ban medical-assisted deaths as “fundamentally wrong.” . . . [Full text]


One year after Canada’s medically assisted dying law, patients face uneven access

‘This dying, elderly man was stuck in the back of an ambulance so he could access his dying wishes’

CBC News

Nicole Ireland

“Martha” was stunned when her 78-year-old father told her he wanted a medically assisted death, after battling lung cancer for almost two years.

“It’s something you’ve never contemplated before in your family,” she said. “How do you prepare for this? This date that somebody’s going to pass away. It’s really hard.”

Martha has asked CBC News to use only her middle name, because children in her family don’t know that their grandfather’s death was medically assisted.  A year after Canada’s Medical Assistance in Dying law passed on June 17, 2016, the issue remains highly controversial. . .  [Full text]


St. Boniface Hospital to allow assisted-dying assessments but not assisted dying

Hospital board voted to allow assisted dying in ‘rare circumstances,’ overturned decision 2 weeks later

CBC News

Aidan Geary, Tessa Vandherhart

While confirming that it won’t allow medical assistance in dying on site, St. Boniface Hospital has lifted its policy requiring patients to leave the facility to be assessed for the service.

Under its old rules, patients at St. Boniface Hospital hoping to access medical assistance in dying had to be transferred off site for the assessments, which are required by Manitoba law and conducted by a medical team from the Winnipeg Regional Health Authority.

One patient died as a result of one such transfer, according to a St. Boniface Hospital internal memo dated March 1 that was provided to CBC News. . . [Full text]


Catholic Health Corp. stacks St. Boniface Hospital board to stop assisted dying

Board chair resigns, saying patients harmed by policy

CBC News

The organization governing Winnipeg’s St. Boniface Hospital has appointed 10 new members to overturn a policy on medically assisted dying, leading the board chair to resign in protest.

On May 29, the St. Boniface Hospital board of directors narrowly approved a new policy that would allow medical assistance in dying (MAID) at the faith-based hospital under “rare circumstances.”

The Catholic Health Corp. of Manitoba held a special board meeting the next day and added 10 new members to the hospital’s board of directors, and then asked for a revote. . . [Full text]


Ontario conscience rights case now in judges’ hands

Catholic Register

Michael Swan

TORONTO – Three days and nearly two dozen lawyers arguing the broad principles and technical details of constitutional law before a three-judge has panel left Christian Medical and Dental Society executive director Deacon Larry Worthen “cautiously optimistic.”

“The court certainly heard our arguments,” Worthen told The Catholic Register on June 15 outside the courtroom as lawyers shook hands and dispersed in the hallways of historic Osgoode Hall.

The trial before the Ontario Court of Justice was likely the first leg in a battle all the combatants expect will end in at the Supreme Court of Canada. Five dissenting Christian doctors who all object to abortion, chemical birth control, petri-dish human fertilization and assisted suicide asked the court to strike down a 2015 College of Physicians and Surgeons of Ontario rule that forces them to provide an “effective referral” for services they reject on the basis of their religious faith or conscience. . . [Full text]


Protecting The Right to Conscientious Objection

Reproduced with permission

Kelvin Goertzen, MLA

In 2015 the Supreme Court of Canada ruled that Canadians could access a medical assisted death with the help of a physician. As part of that decision, the Supreme Court tasked Parliament with developing the legislative framework by which the medical assisted death (otherwise known as MAID) could happen in Canada.

The decision has resulted in a number of different concerns regarding the right to conscientious objection for medical professionals and others. As Minister of Health for Manitoba over the past year, I have heard from many in the healthcare profession who are concerned that they may in the future be required to participate in a MAID procedure as a requirement of their occupation.

While the provincial governments have been mandated by the Supreme Court decision to ensure there is access to MAID, they also have a responsibility to ensure that those who are unable to participate in a medically assisted death due to their personal beliefs or values have protection.

That is why during this past session of the Manitoba Legislature, I introduced Bill 34 (currently in second reading) which is about providing protection to medical professionals and others who may not want to participate, for whatever reason, in a medical assisted death. There was no robust legislation in Manitoba or anywhere else that protected medical professionals so that they would not be required to act in a medical assisted death. Not just doctors, but nurses and other health professionals have asked for legislative means to ensure that this protection exists, not just for today but for the future as well.

The legislation would ensure that now and into the future, an individual could refuse to participate in a medically assisted death without any disciplinary or employment repercussions. It also prohibits a professional regulatory body from requiring its members to participate in a medically assisted death.

In Manitoba we have been a leader in ensuring that a balance is struck between meeting the legal responsibilities flowing from the Supreme Court of Canada and Parliament’s subsequent action and ensuring that medical professionals are able to also act in a way that is in keeping with their own personal convictions and the purpose for which they entered the medical field. The work of the individual professional colleges in Manitoba has been helpful to date in working to protect the rights of medical professionals and the legislation which I have introduced will help to support that work.

I look forward to this legislation being further considered in the fall session of the Manitoba Legislature and to ensuring that medical professionals have their conscientious rights protected.