Faith-based health facilities shouldn’t prolong patient suffering

Christopher De Bono’s Policy Options article on medical assistance in dying (MAID) attempts to persuade us that there is no problem with health care providers refusing to allow MAID in faith-based institutions. I am a MAID provider in the Comox Valley in British Columbia. Until two months ago our local acute care hospital, the only hospital in our community, was Catholic. It prohibited MAID. Fortunately, that hospital, St. Joseph’s, has now been replaced by a new secular facility, the Comox Valley Hospital. Our hospice is still in Catholic hands.

I believe that no individual health care worker should be required to take part in MAID, be they a physician, a nurse, a pharmacist or any other practitioner, and De Bono would agree.

Where he and I part company is over faith-based institutions. An individual health care professional — the actual hands-on provider of health care — has a conscience, and for some this means they cannot take part in MAID. Bricks and mortar cannot have a conscience, however. Neither can the institutions housed within those bricks and mortar. Institutions and facilities can possess an ethos — not a conscience — but this must not be allowed to interfere with the rights of individual patients seeking legal treatments and with the staff willing to provide them. This is especially true when almost all the funding of the work of the institutions is provided by the general public, as is the case for most hospitals and hospices across Canada.