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Euthanasia case raises alarms

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  • August 22, 2019

OTTAWA -- The dismissal of a complaint against a doctor who euthanized a patient against the wishes of his Jewish long-term care home has alarmed religious freedom and anti-euthanasia advocates.

The College of Physicians and Surgeons of British Columbia (CPSBC) dismissed the complaint against Dr. Ellen Wiebe for euthanizing a patient at Vancouver’s Louis Brier Home and Hospital in June 2017 against the Orthodox Jewish policies of the facility.

Wiebe, who knew that the Orthodox Jewish nursing home forbids euthanasia, secretly entered the facility after hours to fatally inject a cancer patient. Management of the Louis Brier Home were incensed and filed a complaint against the doctor.

“There needs to be some kind of pushback,” said Dr. Will Johnston, a family physician and president of the Euthanasia Prevention Coalition-BC. “The medical regulatory community in general is having trouble balancing the interests of the community against aggressive, radical autonomy.... It should be obvious that when someone wants to be killed by the state and this has been allowed by law, that they should not have the right to specify the exact location.”

Barry Bussey, director, legal affairs for the Canadian Council of Christian Charities, called the college’s decision “a dagger at the heart of the Catholic hospital system” and “a further indication of the absolute disregard for the rights of religious organizations to be able to determine for themselves their own religious culture, faith tradition and practices.”

“When you have a physician who knows the policy of the nursing home, as well as the family knowing the policies, to have this physician surreptitiously bring these drugs into the nursing home, in violation of the policies, and then she goes ahead and commits the act of MAiD shows an absolute disregard and lack of respect for the greater religious community,” Bussey said.

Catholic health facilities do not allow euthanasia on their premises.

David Keselman, the chief executive officer of Louis Brier, said the institution is not planning to ask for a judicial review of the CPSBC decision.

“We have no faith or hope it would go anywhere or the outcome would be any different,” Keselman said. 

He added, however, the response of the College “absolutely scares me.” 

“What they’ve done is basically say: ‘It’s OK for any physician to go in and do something similar. It’s a precedent, regardless of the organizations policies and procedures, physicians can go ahead and do it.”

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