The Canadian euthanasia issue marks a time of upheaval in medical ethics and the healthcare system which could be compared to events a century ago in Russia.
The Bolsheviks were not preordained to take over from the previous government, but their ruthlessness and aggression were unmatched. They demonized competing ideas and purged the social structures. They made their own laws. Nothing was allowed to stand. All was justified for public good, the good of the Proletariat.
The polite Canadian version seems to be that all control is justified by public funding. If a hospital accepts public money, a uniformity of euthanasia access is expected, a literally deadening uniformity.
People who would be ignored if they insisted that all welfare recipients be required to think alike, or that all Canada Council grants be used to create the same work of art, grab attention by bullying Catholic caregivers and hospitals which, like all hospitals, could not survive without tax dollars.
Every day thousands of Canadian patients are humanely transferred between homes and hospitals. Some are seeking a procedure offered in a different building, for which an ambulance ride and a change in the wallpaper would not arouse comment in normal times.
But in August of this year, a Vancouver patient had an interval of poor pain control while he was being transferred from St. Paul’s Hospital to be euthanized elsewhere. The lapse in medication was, ironically, triggered by the euthanasia consent process itself, followed by a pharmacy mix-up.
That provided a gotcha! moment for activists which was exploited to demand that all hospitals must now offer their premises for the use of doctors who want to euthanize patients on site. There are howls of outrage that St. Paul’s, a Catholic hospital, is a euthanasia-free zone in keeping with its principles.
This indignant bluster is an attempt to ignore the caution and limitation that the Supreme Court and Parliament tried to place on euthanasia. The new law really just excuses police from charging a doctor with murder if stringent eligibility rules are rigorously followed.
This narrow exception allowed euthanasia in order to protect the right to life proclaimed in Section 7 of the Charter. That may seem bizarre, but the Court decided that having the eventual option of death at the hands of a doctor was likely to prevent earlier do-it-yourself suicides. Flimsy or not, that was the hinge of the Carter decision and for now we are stuck with it.
Taking a mere exception to a murder charge and spinning it as a right to be euthanized everywhere and anywhere in Canada is audacious but transparently political. The euthanasia lobby, flushed with its recent success, wants a monopoly on power, and a health care monoculture that sweeps away all opposition.
People who think differently are not even to be allowed into medical school.
Inviting such extremism into our society would be, to say the least, unhealthy. True diversity and freedom would not be served by it. The activists now attacking Catholic hospitals would not stop there. Everything is a one-way street for them. Their Utopia is euthanasia on demand.
Having convinced themselves that they are the only true humanitarians, no compromises are possible. Like someone who wears far too much perfume, they can’t understand why others would not want the common space pervaded by their own superior preferences.
The problem is not “religious hospitals.” The problem is zealous ideologues whose inability to accommodate those outside their faction will damage the fabric of our culture.
Dr Will Johnston is a family physician in Vancouver. This article has been republished with permission from Huffington Post Canada.