Pro-life forum targets medical students

  • November 20, 2009
{mosimage}Canadian Physicians for Life hosted its sixth annual medical students forum in Calgary Nov. 20-22 to discuss abortion, euthanasia, conscience rights and medical pro-life clubs.

The lineup of speakers and workshop leaders — chosen to help equip pro-life medical students with knowledge and confidence on emerging issues of concern — was to include Margaret Somerville, professor of law and medicine at McGill University and founding director of McGill’s Centre for Medicine, Ethics and Law. She planned to speak to students about euthanasia and the topic of human dignity.

“The medical students are going to be the ones to make the decisions in the future, aren’t they, so it’s very important for them to understand what they’re dealing with,” she told The Catholic Register.

Somerville said many doctors in Quebec who responded to a survey about whether or not euthanasia was wrong do not understand what it is. Many indicated that euthanasia was synonymous with palliative sedation and adequate pain relief.

“The public is being lulled into the idea that all doctors think it’s OK but of course if you think it’s just palliative sedation or pain relief when it’s needed then of course you don’t think it’s a problem,” she said. “What we should be talking about is doctors being allowed to kill their patients.”

As a professor, she said, the idea of having to stand up in front of medical school students to teach them how to properly kill their patients is horrendous.

“I mean, if you’re going to do it, you’ve got to teach them to do it competently,” she said, citing an example in the Netherlands where a patient who survived a lethal injection then sued his doctor for malpractice. In the Netherlands, doctors can administer lethal injections to patients who are depressed and wish to die.

Somerville was also scheduled to give a talk about human dignity, a concept people on both sides of the euthanasia debate use to back up their ideas.

“The pro-euthanasia concept is that a person loses their dignity when they’re in a certain state and so dignity is restored by putting you out of that state. Whereas the anti-euthanasia argument is that all humans have dignity because we’re human and the respect for that dignity and to kill you is a failure to respect your dignity.”

Will Johnston, president of Canadian Physicians for Life and a family physician in Vancouver, said the medical students’ conference is the most important thing Canadian Physicians for Life does as an organization.

“This is the most important thing, which is to educate and support medical pro-life students so they can carry on the presence of a strong life ethic within the medical profession which is so easily hijacked by an amoral technocratic mindset.”

One of the presentations will revolve around how to create medical pro-life groups on campus. Johnston said these are very important because they allow students to have the direct support of colleagues.

“Non-medical pro-life groups are not in the course of their work going to be directly faced with being implicated in an abortion or picking up the pieces after an abortion or being criticized for not sending someone for an abortion and so forth,” he said. “It’s good for medical students to have a clear identity as making themselves distinct from the establishment position on abortion which is an unquestioning position.”

For more information on Canadian Physicians for Life, visit the web site .

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