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Nurses provide care to a patient at the palliative care unit of a hospital. CNS photo/Philippe Wojazer, Reuters

Alberta doctors fear for rights

By  Andrew Ehrkamp, Canadian Catholic News
  • November 2, 2019

EDMONTON -- Many Catholic doctors in Alberta are worried that they will soon be forced to provide referrals for assisted suicide, says the head of the provincial St. Luke’s Physicians’ Guild.

Dr. Mary Ellen Haggerty says a recent Ontario court decision sets a precedent that will lead to a legal requirement that any doctor in Alberta must provide that referral. 

To date the doctors have been protected by the Charter rights to freedom of conscience and freedom of religion if they refused to participate in assisted suicide and euthanasia, as well as abortion and other controversial procedures.

“There is a real threat to anybody Catholic practising in Canada,” Haggerty said at the St. Luke’s guild annual meeting Oct. 20. “It’s establishing case law and people are going to be able to use that to push an agenda which is already being pushed here in Alberta.

“There is a real threat to anybody Catholic practising in Canada.”

“The issue is you’ll lose your licence. If you lose your licence, you can’t practise. So then how do you make a living? And what happens to my patients if I lose my licence?”

Earlier this year, a three-judge panel rejected an attempt by the Christian Medical and Dental Society of Canada to quash a requirement of the College of Physicians and Surgeons of Ontario that states doctors who morally object to assisted suicide or other medical procedures must provide an “effective referral” to doctors who will provide the service.

In Alberta, physicians are asked about medically assisted suicide at the time of their licence renewal, and they must provide information on so-called Medical Assistance in Dying (MAiD).

But Haggerty said the Ontario ruling takes it one step further by requiring doctors to provide a written referral. Doing so, either directly or indirectly, would contravene Catholic teaching.

Haggerty also notes some physicians may switch their type of practice, their province or leave the profession altogether rather than provide a procedure they see as morally wrong.

“I’ve seen it happening. They don’t want to be targeted basically by somebody who wants to see them close their practice — or perhaps they don’t want to have to defend their views,” said Haggerty, whose guild represents 100 Catholic physicians in Alberta.

“They want to protect themselves from certain expectations.”

(Grandin Media)

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