The pro-euthanasia group Dying with Dignity Canada is demanding an end to religious exemptions that allow medical facilities with a religious affiliation to decline to participate in assisted suicide. Alex Schadenberg, international chair of the Euthanasia Prevention Coalition, explained that the group is specifically campaigning for an end to “forced transfers” — a term they use to describe what happens when people are “forced” to relocate to a facility that will participate with the country’s Medical Aid in Dying (MAiD) laws.
Assisted suicide and euthanasia are currently allowed in Canada under its MAiD laws. However, Global News reports that the government also maintains an agreement in which medical facilities covered under the Denominational Health Association can receive government assistance but refuse to participate in activities they oppose on religious or moral grounds. In some cases, this means that hospitals or nursing homes with a religious affiliation are refusing to carry out euthanasia requests.
Alex Muir, chair of the Metro Vancouver chapter of Dying With Dignity, argues that if medical facilities receive taxpayer money, they should participate in assisted suicide or euthanasia.
“Eligible British Columbians are being denied their constitutionally protected right to access MAID by some taxpayer-funded health care facilities,” he said in a statement. “Under the Canada Health Act, and as affirmed by Supreme Court of Canada decisions, governments must offer reasonable access to all medically necessary services funded by the government.”
Dying with Dignity maintains that forcing people who are terminally ill to move to a different medical facility so that they can kill themselves is cruel. “Already suffering, when their health is fragile, patients experience stress and feel stigmatized for their choice to access MAID and end their suffering,” the organization said in a press release. But despite this assertion, studies have shown that often, people don’t seek to die because they are in pain, but because they are lonely, depressed, hopeless, have no support, and are afraid of being a burden. Often, offering better palliative care and treatment is the more compassionate choice — not pressuring someone into believing that death is their only option.
Assisted suicide rates in Canada are already alarming; reports show that more and more people request assisted death each year. British Columbia, in particular, has some of the highest rates of assisted suicide in the world. There have also been alarming reports of people who have claimed that they or their family members were pressured to undergo assisted death. Death with Dignity’s demand that religious-affiliated hospitals now commit euthanasia is another example of the disregard of the dignity of life and the slippery slope that occurs once state-sanctioned death is legalized.
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