Bishop Douglas Crosby.

C-14 ‘fundamentally unjust,’ bishops tell committee

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  • May 4, 2016

They’ve said it before and they’re saying it again.

“Bill C-14, no matter how it may be amended, is an affront to human dignity, an erosion of human solidarity, and a danger to all vulnerable persons,” the Canadian Conference of Catholic Bishops told the Standing Committee on Justice and Human Rights as it reviews a proposed law to regulate the practice of medically assisted suicide.

“The Canadian Conference of Catholic Bishops absolutely and categorically disagrees with any attempt at justifying or supporting a ‘right’ to assisted suicide or euthanasia,” Hamilton Bishop Doug Crosby, president of the CCCB, told parliamentarians in Ottawa who are burning the midnight oil to get C-14 passed before the Supreme Court’s June 6 deadline.

The Supreme Court of Canada decided on Feb. 6, 2015 that Canadians have a legal right to ask for and receive a doctor’s help in killing themselves. Originally the court gave Parliament one year to pass a new law to replace sections of the Criminal Code which had previously forbidden assisted suicide. A fall election and a slow process of review made it impossible for the politicians to meet the original deadline, which was then extended six months. Bill C-14 “An Act to amend the Criminal Code and to make related amendments to other Acts (medical assistance in dying)” passed second reading April 22.

Read the bill here.

The bishops call C-14 “a fundamentally unjust law.”

“No amendments could legitimate the inherent evil in the premises behind the proposed legislation,” said the CCCB brief.

The proposed legislation makes the Supreme Court decision worse on two fronts, according to the bishops. First, it threatens to throw non-complying doctors and nurses out of their jobs and risks closing Catholic hospitals. Second, it does nothing to limit the ways in which assisted suicide may be proposed or offered to vulnerable people.

An absence of conscience protections at the federal level for those health-care professionals and institutions who refuse to take part or directly refer for assisted suicide means provincial regulators could set up a patchwork of conflicting policies that would result in fewer doctors and hospitals available to Canadians, according to the bishops.

“Leaving such protections to provincial legislators or professional organizations (such as provincial colleges of physicians, pharmacists or nurses) would result in a chaotic situation,” Crosby told the legislators.

Provincial rules “would effectively prompt the resignation or removal of many health care professionals,” he said.

On the institutional front the results could be even more dire.

“It could also potentially force the closure of hospitals operated under religious auspices, most of which are Catholic,” Crosby said.

“At a time when our health-care system requires more resources, not less, the federal government should not allow lower jurisdictions to drive conscientious health-care practitioners from their professions.”

The Canadian bishops are unimpressed by Bill C-14’s attempt to limit the suicide service to those whose “natural death has become reasonably foreseeable.”

“Every person who has reflected on their own mortal existence knows that their own natural death is not only reasonably foreseeable, but indeed inevitable,” said Crosby. “This ‘safeguard’ will protect no one.”

A law that would make medicine the agent of death on demand, “is a violation of the sacrosanct duty of health-care providers to heal, and the responsibility of legislators and citizens to assure and provide protection for all, especially those persons most at risk,” said the bishop.

Suicide as a mode of euthanasia “contradicts the fundamental responsibility that human beings have to protect one another and to enhance the quality of health and social care which every human life deserves, from conception to natural death,” Crosby said.

Read the full brief here.

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