CBC interviewer fails to ask tough questions

Sean Murphy*

A bill has been introduced in the Canadian Senate by Conservative Senator Nancy Ruth to legalize physician assisted suicide and euthanasia.  Bill S-225’s definition of of “assist”  is of particular interest.  It means  “to provide the person with the knowledge or means to commit suicide, or to perform an act with the intent to cause the person’s death.”   Consistent with this, an “assisting physician” is one “who provides assistance” to a patient seeking euthanasia or physician-assisted suicide.

This indicates that indirectly facilitating suicide even by providing information for that purpose is equivalent to more direct forms of assistance, like providing a lethal prescription.  Further, it implies that both providing information to facilitate suicide and actually killing someone are of comparable legal or moral significance.  Many physicians and health care workers who object to assisted suicide and euthanasia would agree, and, for that reason, would refuse to refer or otherwise help a patient find someone willing to kill him or assist him in committing suicide.

The point was overlooked during an interview of Senator Ruth by Evan Solomon on CBC Television’s Power and Politics (2 December, 2014).  After discussing the contents of the bill in general terms and asking Senator Ruth about her reasons for introducing it, Solomon raised the issue of conscientious objection:

Evan Solomon:  A doctor might be watching this, and say, you know, “Great piece of legislation. What do you do if, what will you do to me if I don’t want to do this?”

Senator Ruth:  Nothing.  No doctor is coerced to do this, no patient is coerced to do this.  This is about choice.  The choice of doctors who want to assist in it and their protection . . .

Solomon failed to ask the tough questions.  Among them:

  1. If physicians will not be forced to kill patients, will they, nonetheless, be forced to help patients find someone who will?
  2. Why is it that the bill is about the choice and the protection of doctors who want to help to kill patients, and not about the choice and protection of those who refuse?
  3. When abortion was legalized, politicians and activists promised that no physician would be forced to provide abortions, but refused to include a protection of conscience provision in the law.1  Now the College of Physicians of Ontario is proposing a policy that would compel physicians to provide abortions or help  patients obtain them.2  Dr. Marc Gabel, chair of the working group that produced the draft policy, warns that physicians who refuse to do this should get out of family practice.3  As written, the policy could be applied equally to euthanasia and assisted suicide.  Why does Senator Ruth think that objecting physicians will not be coerced – if not sooner, then later?


1. Murphy, S.  “Promises, promises.  Canadian law reformers promise tolerance, freedom of conscience:What happens after the law is changed is another story.” Protection of Conscience Project

2. “Ontario physicians to be forced to do what they believe to be wrong:  Draft policy demands that objectors provide or refer.  Policy would apply to euthanasia, if legalized.”  Protection of Conscience Project news release, 10 December, 2014

3.  Swan, M.   “Catholics doctors who reject abortion told to get out of family medicine.” The Catholic Register, 17 December, 2014.  (Accessed 2014-12-19)



Belgian court grants killer rapist the right to be put to death after he argues he cannot overcome his violent sexual impulses

Frank Van Den Bleeken wants to end years of mental anguish

Will commit medically assisted suicide at jail in Bruges this week 
It comes 12 years after Belgium’s euthanasia law was introduced

Daily Mail

Mail Foreign Service

A rapist and murderer is to be put to death in Belgium, despite the EU ban on the death penalty, after a court granted him the right to euthanasia.

Frank Van Den Bleeken argued that he had no prospect of release because he cannot overcome his violent sexual impulses and wants to end years of mental anguish.

Van Den Bleeken, 51, will commit medically assisted suicide at a prison in Bruges this week. [Full text]


College of Physicians, please stand up for religious minorities


Reproduced with permission

Faye Sonier

*Dr. Gabel is Member of Council and Past President of the College of Physicians and Surgeons of Ontario. He is the chair of the College’s policy working group which issued the draft “Professional Obligations and Human Rights” policy.

Dear Dr. Marc Gabel,

I just read this article which was published in the Catholic  Register. You were quoted in the piece. Here is an excerpt:

Catholic doctors who won’t perform abortions or provide abortion referrals should leave family medicine, says an official of the College of Physicians and Surgeons of Ontario.

“It may well be that you would have to think about whether you can practice family medicine as it is defined in Canada and in most of the Western countries,” said Dr. Marc Gabel, chair of the college’s policy working group reviewing “Professional Obligations and Human Rights.”

The Ontario doctor’s organization released a draft policy Dec. 11 that would require all doctors to provide referrals for abortions, morning-after pills and contraception. The revised policy is in response to evolving obligations under the Ontario Human Rights Code, Gabel said.

There have been no Ontario Human Rights Tribunal decisions against doctors for failing to refer for abortion or contraception.

Gabel said there’s plenty of room for conscientious Catholics in various medical specialties, but a moral objection to abortion and contraception will put family doctors on the wrong side of human rights legislation and current professional practice.

“Medicine is an amazingly wide profession with many, many areas to practice medicine,” he said.

Yes, medicine is “an amazingly wide profession.” Thankfully, it is also a profession which attracts an “amazingly wide” array of Canadians. Of those Canadian physicians are some who share my pro-life perspective. They may refuse to refer for abortion due to their conscience, but they may also refuse to refer due to their religious beliefs (or both – we’re working out what this means under the Charter). They may be Christian, Muslim, Jewish or atheist physicians but they have an issue with abortion or contraceptives. For them, to refer for this procedure or these drugs is to be complicit in the actions and their consequences.

I am an Ontario resident. I’m a cancer survivor. I’m a mother.  I have spent far more than my fair share of time in Ontario hospitals and clinics being treated by wonderful Ontario doctors.

Over the last few years, I’ve gone out of my way to work with pro-life physicians who share my perspective. I reject the notion that killing and dismembering unborn children is medicine, and I wanted to work with physicians who share my values regarding human life and human dignity.  Due to the “amazingly wide” practice of medicine in Ontario, I was able to find a few, and become their patient. I am so thankful for their care.

But due to your working group’s proposed new policy, I might lose my family physicians. They will choose to practice medicine in a province that respects both their skills and their rights, rather than sacrifice their conscience or their sincerely held religious beliefs.

I’m also a human rights lawyer. The College’s reasoning for stripping physicians of their conscience and religious rights is not based on law. Your working group received a number of submissions on that point, so I’ll leave you to review them with your legal counsel. The doctors seeking to exercise their freedoms have a leg to stand on. Heck, they have Canadian and Ontario human rights law on their side.

Of great concern to me is the definition of “discrimination” which you provided when interviewed:

“We’re saying that the discrimination occurs when you are not acting in the best interest of the patient,” said Gabel. “When you are not communicating effectively or respectfully about this with the patient, when you’re not managing conflicts, when you differ from the patient and when you are not respecting the patient’s dignity and ensuring their access to care and protecting their safety. That’s the issue.”

Dr. Gabel, this is not the definition of “discrimination” at law. If someone chooses to make up definitions for words, they are free to do so. (My son, for example, seems to think that “babagaba” is a verb which means “to chew on mommy’s ankle.”)

However, for a body like the College of Physicians and Surgeons of Ontario to create a new definition of “discrimination” which will result in the stripping of legal and human rights of some of their members is shocking, and this new definition will not stand up in a court of law. I urge the College to abide by Canadian and Ontario law.

Dr. Gabel, I suspect you are well intentioned and a kind and caring psychotherapist, like so many of the wonderful doctors who have treated me over the years. But please don’t force my physicians from the province with your policy. My family depends on their expertise and professionalism. I like to see my own values reflected in the “amazingly wide” practice of medicine in Ontario. For someone like myself, a religious minority, this is very important.

The membership of your College is broad and wide enough to include some family physicians who happen to hold pro-life positions. If it is not, it should be.


Faye Sonier