This article was published in the National Post on October 19, 2015.
By Will Johnston
Dr Will Johnston is a family physician in Vancouver and the chair of the Euthanasia Prevention Coalition of BC
For at least a few more months, the Canadian medical system will continue to be a safe space, free of assisted suicide and euthanasia. But all that is about to change. In order to ensure our hospitals and palliative care centres remain places where patients feel safe and secure, we must respect doctors’ conscience rights, rather than listen to activists who seek to impose their one-size-fits-all policy on the rest of us.
For instance, the palliative care centres in Quebec that refuse to have anything to do with euthanasia, for reasons of medical judgment and ethics, have apparently angered Jean-Pierre Menard, the lawyer who helped write Quebec’s euthanasia law, Bill 52. The act specifically states that palliative care centres are not required to provide euthanasia service — but maybe to Menard, those were just soothing words to get the bill passed. Now Menard says money should be taken away from palliative services that won’t provide euthanasia on their premises. And the minister of health, Gaetan Barrette, has threatened to revoke the hospital privileges of doctors who won’t comply.
This is wrong. The doctors and nurses who devote themselves to the care of dying people reject euthanasia because it is a tempting substitute for diligence and creativity. People with exceptionally difficult end-of-life illnesses can have reversible palliative sedation, which preserves their life and completely alleviates their symptoms. This makes intentionally killing the patient an unnecessary, dangerous and irreversible intrusion.