WINNIPEG, Manitoba, November 25, 2016 (LifeSiteNews) – Two Christian hospitals in Winnipeg have decided not to euthanize their patients nor help them kill themselves, and the CBC immediately found a university ethicist to condemn them.
According to one critic, the controversial state-funded broadcaster is guilty of “selective outrage” in its continued attack on hospitals and physicians that conscientiously object to Canada’s new euthanasia regime.
Concordia Hospital, which is Mennonite, and St. Boniface, which is Catholic, have both indicated they have the agreement of the Winnipeg Regional Health Authority to not provide “Medical Assistance in Dying” (MAID) as euthanasia and assisted suicide are euphemistically termed.
The Mennonite hospital even took out a large advertisement in the local press stating that its administration consulted widely with health and faith organizations before opting out of any assisted suicide provisions. “Concordia believes that providing health care is a ministry assigned to us by Christ. … As such our opposition to the practice of MAID based on our ethical and moral beliefs needs [sic] has been recognized and honoured by WRHA,” the ad read in part.
The Catholic institution was less forthcoming, but when interviewed, a spokesperson told the CBC it wouldn’t be providing assisted suicide. LifeSiteNews also questioned St. Boniface Hospital with scarcely more explicit results. “We would not be participating in that,” said a media relations staffer. Asked why, the staffer replied, “Because we are a Catholic facility.”
However both hospitals have said they will help their patients and families connect with the “Provincial Medical Assistance in Dying Clinical Team.”
That’s not good enough, reportedly, for Arthur Schafer, director of the Centre for Professional and Applied Ethics at the University of Manitoba. Schafer told the CBC it was “disturbing” that two publicly-funded hospitals refused to provide the full range of legal services.
Schafer raised the plight of residents at the care home affiliated with Concordia Hospital who want to be euthanized on site. “The idea that patients who live in Concordia Place for example — that’s their home — and if they wish to die at home, the fact that the church with whom the hospital is affiliated doesn’t approve of that, shouldn’t limit [the patient’s] fundamental right. … No patient should be denied their wish to die at home, to die where they’re living.”
However, the 2015 Supreme Court decision in Carter that recognized a right to assisted suicide did not acknowledge a right to die at home.
Schafer admitted that the Supreme Court also recognized the right of doctors and nurses to opt out of assisted suicide for reasons of conscience, but he insisted it did not apply to institutions. “The people who work within those institutions have a conscience, the institution doesn’t,” he said.
However, the Supreme Court of Canada has acknowledged a collective right of believers to enjoy freedom of religion via their institutions, stating, in the Loyola High School case, “Where the claimant is an organization rather than an individual, it must show that the claimed belief or practice is consistent with both its purpose and operation.”
Health authorities across Canada clearly believe faith-based hospitals can opt out of assisted suicide. In British Columbia several Catholic hospitals have been attacked for refusing to participate in euthanasia and assisted suicide but have escaped sanctions from public authorities. Michael Shea, the president of the Catholic Health Alliance of Canada, which has 124 institutional members across Canada, says he is unaware of any jurisdiction requiring his members to participate in assisted suicide.
“This isn’t about an institution imposing its views on someone. It’s about the freedom of conscience of an organization to not do what is not compatible with its values,” he told LifeSiteNews. “We aren’t blocking anyone’s access to service,” he added. He said his members were co-operating with health authorities to “best adapt” to the new “right” to assisted suicide.
Shea noted, “Catholic institutions often were the first health providers in many Canadian communities especially in the West.” And these services were provided then as now indiscriminately with regard to faith or lack of it.
Catholic hospitals are still the only provider in some Canadian communities but Shea said their position there is no different from a town with only one or two doctors who refuse to provide particular procedures for reasons of conscience or competence.
John Carpay, director of the Justice Centre for Constitutional Freedoms, agrees. Schafer and other critics of Christian hospitals are showing “selective outrage,” he told LifeSiteNews. “There is no outrage when medical centres in smaller communities only provide a limited range of medical services, and people have to travel if what they need is not provided locally.”
“Even in a large city, not every hospital or clinic provides every service; it’s par for the course that patients need to go to a single hospital or clinic for a particular service that is not available at other hospitals or clinics. Again, where is the outrage?” Carpay said these critics “are motivated presumably by the desire for ideological conformity.”