At Veterans’ Homes, Aid-in-Dying Isn’t an Option

Facilities in four states claim they’ll risk losing federal funding if they allow assisted suicide.

The Atlantic

Jonel Aleccia

The state of California passed a law three years ago that allows terminally ill people to take lethal drugs to end their lives, but controversy is growing over a newer rule that effectively bans that option in the state’s eight veterans’ homes.

Proponents of medical aid-in-dying and residents of the Veterans Home of California at Yountville – the largest in the nation – are protesting a regulation passed in 2016 by the California Department of Veterans Affairs, or CalVet, that requires that anyone living in the facilities must be discharged if they intend to use the law.

That’s a position shared by most – but not all – states where aid-in-dying is allowed. As more U.S. jurisdictions consider whether to legalize the practice, the status of terminally ill veterans living in state-run homes will loom large . . . [Full Text]

Court Holds Health Care Conscience Act Trumps County’s Immunity Claim

News Release

For immediate release

Mauck & Baker LLC

ROCKFORD, Ill.—On Monday, Chief Judge Eugene Doherty rejected Winnebago County’s primary defense that the Tort Immunity Act shielded it from liability for claims that Rockford nurse Sandra (Mendoza) Rojas brought against it after she was forced out of her job for refusing to participate in abortion-related services. Rojas’ right to refuse to participate in such services is protected under the Illinois Health Care Right of Conscience Act and Illinois Religious Freedom Restoration Act. A devout Catholic, Rojas worked for the Health Department for 18 years providing pediatric care, immunizations, and screenings.

In 2015, the county’s new Public Health Administrator, Dr. Sandra Martell, merged the pediatric clinic with women’s health services and mandated that all nurses be trained to provide abortion referrals and participate in the provision of abortifacients like Plan B. When Rojas, who Dr. Martell considered to be a “good nurse,” informed the administration of her conscientious objections to participating in any way in the provision of abortions, Dr. Martell gave Rojas two weeks to either quit or accept a demotion to a temporary job as a food inspector. Rojas refused the demotion and lost her job at the clinic.

The suit seeks damages under the Illinois Health Care Right of Conscience Act which prohibits public officials from discriminating against a person in any manner because of their conscientious refusal to participate in any way in the provision of abortions. The Act provides for treble damages and the recovery of attorneys’ fees and costs. “Nursing is more than just a job, it is a noble calling to protect life and do no harm. There is something terribly wrong when you are forced out of your job on account of your commitment to protect life,” said nurse Rojas.

Rojas’ attorney, Noel Sterett, from the law firm Mauck & Baker in Chicago, said, “The Conscience Act was written to ensure that both public and private health care professionals would be protected from government efforts to force them out on account of their conscientious objections.” Denise Harle, Alliance Defending Freedom legal counsel said, “Pro-life nurses shouldn’t be forced to perform or assist in abortion procedures. An individual’s conscience and commitment to the Hippocratic Oath to ‘do no harm’ is often what draws health care workers into the medical field.”

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Contact:
Mauck & Baker Attorney
Noel W. Sterett, Esq.
312-726-6454

Why this is a vital matter of conscience

Daily Mail

Lord Alton

Call The Midwife has become a national institution, and is the BBC’s most popular drama.

Up to ten million people tune in to this heart-warming serial, and its stars, such as Jenny Agutter and Helen George, have reminded people what a high calling it is to bring children into the world.

Yet I think that many viewers would be horrified to realise that today, in 21st century Britain, midwives can lose their jobs unless they are willing to facilitate abortions  –  even though, in ending the life of an unborn child, they must do something that is instinctively the opposite of their calling.

To put a midwife  –  or any other healthcare professional  –  in that invidious position is to me wholly unacceptable. It is almost totalitarian. . .[Full Text]

The midwife hounded out of her job after 30 years (and 5,000 babies) because she refused to supervise abortions

Daily Mail

Jenny Johnston

Mary Doogan sees herself like the driver of the getaway car in an armed robbery.

‘Would the police say that because he wasn’t actually in the bank, brandishing the gun, he isn’t guilty? Of course, they wouldn’t.’

This retired midwife, demurely dressed in a coral cardigan and smart court shoes, is the least likely of criminals, and it is sad that she carries even a hint of guilt about her ‘crime’.

After all, it was committed only in her own eyes (and God’s, she would say) and was a matter of conscience.

In the course of her duties in an NHS hospital, Mary, a devout Catholic, supervised colleagues as they participated in abortions. Although never hands-on herself, she admits she always felt implicated.

‘It’s why I later took the stance I did,’ she says, referring to the court case that ultimately cost her job as a labour ward co-ordinator at the Southern General Hospital in Glasgow. . . [Full Text]

Court decision on assisted suicide referrals opens door for other challenges

The Catholic Register

Michael Swan

While doctors who lost their right to practise medicine according to their conscience contemplate a legal appeal, a prominent pro-euthanasia organization suspects faith-based hospitals, nursing homes and hospices may be next to face demands to accommodate euthanasia and assisted suicide.

Dying With Dignity, Canada believes an Ontario Divisional Court decision that compels doctors to refer for euthanasia and assisted suicide may become a springboard to court challenges aimed at the conscience rights of institutions which refuse to assist in the death of patients.

“It’s really interesting. I think that the question is going to be debated in the coming days and weeks, if not months, by lawyers,” Dying with Dignity CEO Shanaaz Gokool told The Catholic Register.

In a unanimous Jan. 31 decision, a panel of three judges agreed that the religion rights of doctors under the Charter are violated by a policy which demands a formal referral for assisted suicide and other procedures. But the judges nonetheless ruled against the doctors because, they said, there is a greater public interest in ensuring “equitable access to such medical services as are legally available.” . . . [Full Text]

It is not right to force medics to act against their beliefs

A bill to cover conscientious objections in medicine would avoid losing valuable members of staff

The Times

Lord Mackay of Clashfern

A fortnight ago Baroness O’Loan’s Conscientious Objection (Medical Activities) Bill passed its second reading in the House of Lords. It now heads to committee stage where it will be scrutinised further.

A large campaign backing the bill has argued that it is necessary to legally safeguard the conscience of all medical professionals, many of whom do not currently have clear rights guaranteed in law. The bill marks out three areas where conscience rights would receive explicit protection, namely: the withdrawal of life-sustaining treatment; activity under the Human Fertilisation and Embryology Act 1990; and in the context of abortion.

I spoke in support of the bill during the debate prior to the second reading, where many raised concerns about an “unreasonably broad” ability to conscientiously object to the provision of abortion. As far as I am concerned, there is a very simple analysis of this. . . [Full Text]

Home abortions ‘could see more objections from GPs and pharmacists’

BBC News

A midwife who campaigned for staff to opt out of abortion work fears plans for “at home” abortions could see a rise in objections from health staff.

Mary Doogan lost her fight to not be responsible for other colleagues involved in terminations.

She thinks the plans to allow women to take the second abortion pill at home will implicate GPs and pharmacists.

She supports a law change to extend conscientious objection to those not directly involved with the process. . . [Full Text]

Apparently it’s OK to violate doctors’ Charter rights

National Post
Reproduced with permission

Raymond J. de Souza

What happens to fundamental rights when a free and democratic society ceases to be one? That’s the question raised by a decision of the Ontario Superior Court last week.

The court was petitioned by doctors who want nothing to do with “medical assistance in dying,” namely they do not want to use their expertise and professional status to procure the death of their patients. The College of Physicians and Surgeons of Ontario (CPSO) has a policy that requires physicians who do not want to administer lethal treatment to their patients to arrange for their patients to see someone who will. It’s called an “effective referral.” Doctors are therefore mandated to “effect” something that they object to.

Consider a patient who, after a bit of intensive internet research, asks his doctor for a particular drug or course of therapy. The doctor refuses. In her professional judgment the treatment is not in the best interests of the patient. The patient then asks the doctor to arrange for that same treatment from another physician, to “effect” that treatment despite her judgment that it is not appropriate.

The doctor would likely remind the patient that he is free to seek a second opinion, or even seek out another doctor altogether. But the patient’s wish does not override her professional opinion; the doctor is not a waiter taking an order.

What if the patient instead asks to be killed? Then, according to the CPSO, the doctor becomes a service provider, not a professional with a different judgment, much less a citizen with conscientious objections. A doctor can refuse to prescribe the latest weight-loss drug, but must “effect” a lethal injection.

The court, in a unanimous decision, found that the CPSO policy violates doctors’ charter right to religious freedom. (It did not rule on freedom of conscience, but presumably the same would apply.) It further found that the infringement was neither “trivial” or “insubstantial.”

So the court found a serious infringement of a fundamental freedom guaranteed by the charter, and yet upheld the “effective referral” policy, finding that it was a “reasonable limit on religious freedom, demonstrably justified in a free and democratic society.”

Reasonable to whom? Not to the physician who finds abortion abhorrent, and now must to some degree facilitate it. Not to the doctor who wants her infirm patients to know that she would never hasten their deaths, but now is required to co-operate in just that.

The charter permits infringements on rights that are “demonstrably justified in a free and democratic society.” But what happens when society is no longer keen on certain freedoms or certain democratic rights? Or at least when the judges hearing the case think fundamental freedoms not quite so fundamental after all?

The Ontario judges simply decided that they did not think (in this case) that the right to religious freedom was that important. How do we know that? Because the judges accepted that there is “no evidence that conscientious objection results in a failure of access.” So even though a religious or conscientious objection does not impede what a particular policy is attempting to provide, it still can be infringed upon.

Indeed, what makes the Ontario decision all the harder to fathom is that in other provinces there is no equivalent of the CPSO “effective referral” policy. In the internet age, it is not hard for willing doctors to make themselves known. In some provinces the government itself keeps a registry that patients can access. There is no need — as currently demonstrated in other parts of Canada — to force doctors to effect that to which they object.

The only logic that holds the Ontario decision together is that freedom of religion and freedom of conscience are relatively unimportant in a “free and democratic society.” Indeed, the CPSO decision sets the bar of “reasonable limits” so low that it is hard to imagine what would constitute an unreasonable limit.

The answer to that of course is clear, though left unstated. An unreasonable limit is one the judges don’t like. A reasonable one is one that they do.

A palliative-care physician in Ontario who does not wish to participate in assisted suicide now has very good reason to move to Alberta, where she will not be required to effect it. How that helps patients in Ontario is not clear.

It is all quite unreasonable. At least it would be in a free and democratic society.

 

Medical professionals will be able to object to providing terminations

GPs, obstetricians and gynaecologists will be allowed to conscientiously object

The Irish Times

Sarah Bardon

Medical professionals will be able to object to the administration of terminations under Government proposals.

Minister for Health Simon Harris has confirmed he will allow for GPs, obstetricians and gynaecologists to conscientiously object to providing terminations in medical settings. The Government is seeking to introduce legislation to allow for abortions up to 12 weeks and believes this should be a service led by GPs.

However those representing GPs are critical of the lack of engagement by Mr Harris on the proposed legislation.

The National Association of General Practitioners (NAGP) said there has no consultation with GPs despite the assumption this service will be run by them . . . [Full Text]

Delta hospice rebels against Fraser Health’s mandate to provide medical assistance in dying

Vancouver Sun

Pamela Fayerman

The operators of the Delta Hospice Society say they’re victims of “bullying” tactics by Fraser Health and medical assistance in dying (MAiD) activists who want the service provided in all non-denominational, hospice palliative care programs.

“Hospice palliative care is not about hastening death and we object to the bullying currently taking place in B.C.,” said Janice Strukoff, an administrative leader for the charitable, non-profit society that has a contract with the health region to provide 10 palliative care beds for the region. It derives just under half its income from the health authority; the other half comes from private donations.

“Hospice palliative care settings are designed for symptom management, the provision of comfort, and care for a natural death which is neither hastened nor prolonged,” she said, adding that providing MAiD in such settings would stoke fear and anxiety on the part of already vulnerable patients who aren’t necessarily ready to die.” . . . [Full Text]