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Group claims physicians being ‘bullied’

  • March 21, 2020

OTTAWA -- An anti-euthanasia doctors group claims health workers are being “bullied” into providing assisted suicide.

The Physicians’ Alliance against Euthanasia said in a statement that some physicians are afraid to speak out publicly about what they consider to be pressure on health care workers.

“The Physicians’ Alliance against Euthanasia has received reports that unwilling physicians are being pressured and bullied to participate in Medical Assistance in Dying (MAiD),” the organization said.

The charge comes as opponents of legal medically-assisted suicide continue to urge like-minded Canadians to speak out against the practice while  the House of Commons grapples with proposed changes to the legislation that could widen its availability.

“The pressure has been intense for many physicians, especially amongst palliative specialists, some leaving their profession even before this latest development,” the physicians’ group said in its statement. “Descriptions were made of toxic practice environments and fear of discipline by medical regulators.”

The group quoted one unnamed former palliative care health worker as saying: “The anxiety, fear, and sadness surrounding my work bled into my family life, and I ultimately felt that I could not manage practising palliative care at this stage of my life.”

“The reports we are hearing from distressed physicians describe deliberate disruption of arrangements that were previously working satisfactorily and that had permitted patients to have access to MAiD while still allowing for conscience objectors to not be involved in facilitating the patient’s death,” alliance’s press release said.

“This bullying and betrayal of collegial relationships can poison practice environments and compromise patient care. Such behaviour should not be tolerated by health care administrators in Canada.”

While rolling back legally-sanctioned suicide in Canada is unlikely, critics of MAiD are hoping to at least block the further expansion of who can access the system by lobbying on two key issues — better and more accessible palliative care for Canadians nearing the end of life, and protection of conscience rights for health workers who refuse to participate in any way in an assisted suicide.

The government’s proposed Bill C-7 — introduced in the House of Commons in February in the wake of a Quebec court decision that stuck down the regulation that a person’s death must be reasonably foreseeable — sets up a two-tier system for those whose death is reasonably foreseeable and those whose death is not.

It also would allow a waiver of final consent for those whose death is reasonably foreseeable but “who may lose capacity to consent before MAID can be provided,” but it specifically states that it excludes “eligibility for individuals suffering solely from mental illness.”

However, the government does concede that future changes to assisted suicide could include the mentally-ill following a mandated five-year review of the system that will start this summer.

The Association for Reformed Political Action (ARPA) said in a statement that “it is imperative that you reach out to your MP to tell them that you oppose the removal of safeguards and the expansion of eligibility.”

“Although we now know the content of the new proposed law, the content of the final law is still very much in question,” the statement said.

Bishops urge action

Bishops across the country are urging Catholics to write their MPs to stop making plans to make it easier to access assisted suicide with Bill C-7.

“Were this to be adopted into law, our country would be in the position of giving legal permission to medical practitioners not only to hasten the death of the dying but also to terminate the life of the living,” Edmonton Archbishop Richard Smith said in his own letter to MPs who represent ridings in his archdiocese. “This is unacceptable.”

The Edmonton archdiocese has created a webpage with information on euthanasia and physician-assisted suicide, as well as a sample letter to send MPs.

Calgary and Toronto have launched similar letter-writing campaigns. The Archdiocese of Toronto has created a website called helptheliving.ca where petitioners can send a prepared letter to local MPs.

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