Multi-faith leaders ask for conscience rights

May 2, 2016
DEBORAH GYAPONG
CANADIAN CATHOLIC NEWS

Catholic, Protestant, Jewish and Muslim faith leaders appealled April 19 for protection of conscience rights for health professionals and institutions in the assisted suicide bill.

"We believe that any action intended to end human life is morally and ethically wrong," said Evangelical Fellowship of Canada (EFC) president Bruce Clemenger.

Toronto Cardinal Thomas Collins, representing both the Canadian Conference of Catholic Bishops and Coalition for HealthCARE and Conscience, said faith-based communities "established havens of hope" to serve suffering and sick people.

For his faith tradition alone, the Catholic Health Alliance of Canada represents 110 facilities with almost 18,000 beds and 60,000 staff, he said.

"Whether it is the outstanding work of the Salvation Army, the Jewish community or many other faiths, we would be a much colder, harsher country were faith communities not serving on the front lines of care and outreach," he said.

MISSION AND VALUES

Collins said interfaith leaders are asking for the same protection given in every jurisdiction in the world that has legalized euthanasia and assisted suicide - never to force health care institutions to go against their mission and values.

Rabbi Dr. Reuven Bulka of Ottawa made an appeal for the individual conscience rights of medical professionals.

He warned that forcing doctors to kill their patients or to be complicit in their killing by referring them for euthanasia "is to turn the world of medical practice upside down."

Commissioner Susan McMillan, territorial commander for The Salvation Army in Canada and Bermuda, made a plea for palliative care. Only 30 per cent of Canadians have access to end-of-life care that "cares about" patients.

"If there is a lack of quality palliative care available, then we can't expect people to make a truly informed choice about how to respond to their health care needs," she said.

Imam Sikander Hashmi, of the Canadian Council of Imams, said while he understands why those suffering at end of life might want to end their lives, the response should be prayer and "providing the best possible care."

"Opening the door to death as an acceptable option for relief sends a deeply troubling message to those living on the margins of our society," he said.

THREAT OF REPRISALS

Dr. Caroline Girouard, a Montreal hematologist and oncologist, said she and other colleagues have sensed a threat of reprisals if they refuse to participate in killing their patients.

Girouard said a palliative care colleague had also been threatened with discipline if he did not comply with so-called medical aid in dying in his Montreal hospital.

Girouard said she and others would leave medicine rather than comply. She asked for the federal government to protect conscience rights rather than leave it up to the provinces.