Despite an agreement saying that its beliefs and values would be respected, a Catholic hospital in Canada is being forced to participate in assisted suicide after facing legal battles from assisted suicide advocacy organizations.
St. Martha’s Regional Hospital Complex in Antigonish, Nova Scotia, gave control of the hospital to the Nova Scotia Health Authority (NSHA) in 1996 after previously being run by the Sisters of St. Martha — but signed an agreement saying the hospital’s Catholic identity would be protected. This meant assisted suicide was not allowed at St. Martha’s. But outrage from assisted suicide advocacy group Dying with Dignity resulted in threats of a potential legal challenge under the Charter of Rights and Freedoms. This led the NSHA to quietly announce that “[a]ssessments and provision of MAiD [medical assistance in dying] will be available in a section of St. Martha’s Regional Hospital complex at the Antigonish Health and Wellness Centre” in a statement.
Unsurprisingly, Dying with Dignity celebrated the change. “We hope that this is the start and that Nova Scotia’s regulation, Nova Scotia’s position will be used as a model in other jurisdictions across the country. We’re certainly pushing for that,” Jim Cowan, chair of Dying with Dignity, told Global News.
However, a statement from the Sisters of St. Martha insisted that assisted suicide would not be committed within the hospital, but solely in the Antigonish Health and Wellness Centre building, which is attached to the hospital.
As noted by Bioedge, worldwide pressure is mounting on Catholic health care providers to drop their opposition to things like abortion and assisted suicide. One example is Jocelyn Downie, of Dalhousie University, who specifically singled out St. Martha’s to reporters. “[I]t’s indefensible to have a publicly funded institution have a faith-based filter on the services that are available,” she said, attacking the idea of organizations like St. Martha’s receiving taxpayer funding while refusing to participate in abortion and assisted suicide.
Moves like these send a chilling message, not just for pro-life issues, but for religious freedom and conscience rights as well. Ultimately, what pro-death activists are saying is that any organization unwilling to participate in active killing should not be allowed to receive taxpayer funding, at a time when conscience protections are already under attack around the world.
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