Panel Held To Discuss MAID in Faith-Based Facilities

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The Rocky Mountain Civil Liberties Association (RMCLA), along with the Alberta Civil Liberties Research Centre, hosted a debate this weekend to discuss issues surrounding access to Medical Assisted in Dying (MAID) under religious principles.[1] The panel included legislative assembly members, social workers, professors of philosophy and health ethics, civil liberties association members, lawyers and an academic presenting on behalf of the Catholic community.[2]

 

Alberta’s Covenant Health (“Covenant Health”) is Canada’s largest Catholic health care provider including 18 facilities, 14,000 staff, physicians and volunteers across Alberta.[3] It was legislatively incorporated into the Alberta Legislature in 2009, under the Covenant Health Act, when it combined multiple publicly-funded, faith-based health care providers.[4]

 

MAID advocates are concerned that faith-based health institutions are violating the Charter by denying patients access to medically assisted death.[5] Covenant Health prohibits MAID, transferring patients elsewhere “when the time comes”.[6]

 

Forced transfers for assisted dying are wrong. Allowing facilities to forbid assisted death on their premises is an unfair burden on vulnerable Canadians and their families.”- Dying With Dignity Canada[7]

 

It was argued that these potential Charter breaches impacts not only those who live in small towns where faith-based healthcare is the only option, but many in Edmonton where Covenant Health operates 90% of all palliative and hospice beds.[8] One RMCLA member wrote that with such a diversity in the Canadian population there should not be an imposition of certain “religious beliefs on people who do not subscribe to that religion”.[9]

 

Since the 2016 Supreme Court decision, Carter v Canada (AG), that the prohibition of assisted suicide was contrary to Canadian’s Charter Rights, Alberta’s implementation of MAID has been widely considered successful.[10] With the presence of a large Catholic health care provider across the province, around 14% of the those who have accessed this service have been transferred from Covenant Health to a public facility.[11] During the panel discussion, Covenant Health supporters emphasized that their staff take all the appropriate steps to help a “peaceful, expeditious and respectful” transition.[12]

 

Dying With Dignity Canada has released a petition to pressure provincial leaders to take action, following a transfer gone wrong in a Vancouver hospital this month.[13]

 

 

This blog post was written by a CCLA-PBSC RightsWatch student. Views expressed do not necessarily reflect the view of the CCLA or PBSC.

[1] http://www.rmcla.ca/blog/?page_id=412

[2] ibid

[3] Covenant Health: Presentation to Minister’s Advisory Committee on Health, October, 20, 2009

[4] ibid

[5] https://globalnews.ca/news/3963697/37-albertans-transferred-after-faith-based-facilities-refused-medically-assisted-deaths/ , http://www.rmcla.ca/blog/

[6] https://www.covenanthealth.ca/ethics-centre/publications-links/medical-assistance-in-dying/

[7] http://www.dyingwithdignity.ca/advance_consent_pledge

[8] http://edmontonjournal.com/opinion/columnists/paula-simons-catholic-hospitals-put-religious-principles-ahead-of-patient-rights

[9] http://www.rmcla.ca/blog/

[10] https://scc-csc.lexum.com/scc-csc/scc-csc/en/item/14637/index.do , https://globalnews.ca/news/3963697/37-albertans-transferred-after-faith-based-facilities-refused-medically-assisted-deaths/

[11] https://globalnews.ca/news/3963697/37-albertans-transferred-after-faith-based-facilities-refused-medically-assisted-deaths/

[12] ibid

[13] https://www.ctvnews.ca/canada/renewed-discussion-over-assisted-dying-amid-dispute-at-faith-based-sites-1.3752674