Canada’s euthanasia Leviathan

This article was published by Careful a Mercatornet blog on April 26, 2016.

Supporters invoke Thomas Hobbes in a proposal to crush conscientious objection to euthanasia. 

By Michael Cook

Michael Cook

Michael Cook

Canada is soon to have legislation permitting euthanasia and assisted suicide, as decreed by its Supreme Court last year. One question, however, over which some uncertainty hovers is how much wriggle room should be left for doctors who have ethical objections to the new regime.

For one of the country’s most influential bioethicists, Udo Schuklenk, the answer is straightforward: none.

In an article published last weekend, he wrote that “conscientious objection has no place in the practice of medicine”. If doctors feel that they cannot practice euthanasia or refer patients to another doctor for euthanasia, they should find another job.

Dr Schuklenk is worth listening to. He is the co-editor of Bioethics, one of the world’s leading journals in the field, and a professor of philosophy at Queen’s University, in Ontario, Canada. He was one of the authors of an influential white paper commissioned by the Royal Society of Canada for the debate which eventually led to legalisation.

His stand on conscientious objection is not new, but the timing is significant. Bill C-14 was introduced into the Canadian parliament last week implementing the Supreme Court ruling.

Only doctors will be allowed to perform euthanasia, but it is still not clear whether they will have the option of conscientious objection. Dr Schuklenk’s essay in the Journal of Medical Ethics (written with a colleague, Ricardo Smalling, also from Queen’s University), is sure to influence the debate in the weeks before the Supreme Court’s June 6 deadline for passing legislation.

Link to the full article