Canadian hospitals and clinics refuse to participate in doctor-assisted suicide

After a 2015 ruling by the Canadian Supreme Court ordered the federal government to amend the criminal code to allow for euthanasia, health care facilities across the nation have scrambled to prepare for the imposed adjustments. But not all health care organizations are willing to bypass their convictions and cave to the judicial ruling.

Covenant Health, a Catholic organization which runs publicly funded hospitals in the city of Edmonton, as well as continuing care facilities across the province of Alberta, has refused to participate in physician-assisted suicide, according to CBC. In February, Edmonton Archbishop Richard Smith stated that, despite the ruling, Covenant Health will not provide physician-assisted suicide at any of its facilities.

On Monday, Associate Minister for Health Brandy Payne confirmed that doctors and other health workers will be allowed to refuse to participate in euthanasia if it goes against their beliefs. Some supporters of euthanasia were angered by the exemption.

Dying With Dignity Canada, which describes itself as a “national organization committed to improving quality of dying,” criticized Covenant Health’s refusal and the government’s allowance. In a statement, CEO Shanaaz Gokool argued:

Though physicians, as individuals, have a right to conscientious refusal, taxpayer-funded institutions have no such right. Instead, they have a duty to provide a full range of compassionate healthcare options for patients at end of life.

But Archbishop Smith holds that the right to refuse will be exercised, and that the Canadian Supreme Court was wrong in its ruling.

“This [Supreme Court] decision…takes the step of no longer walking with those who suffer and seeking to alleviate the suffering,” he said. “It moves from that to a decision to eliminate the one who suffers.”

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