We live in interesting times, eh.
In a story in The Globe and Mail, a Toronto-based Canadian national newspaper, a physician upset that a Catholic hospital won't participate in assisted suicide (although that term isn't used) gets heroic coverage.
A Vancouver Island doctor is resigning from the ethics committee at a local Catholic hospital because it refuses to offer assisted dying on site, a stand that he says is unnecessarily causing critically ill patients more suffering as they are transferred to facilities dozens of kilometres away.
Jonathan Reggler, a general physician who makes daily patient visits to St. Joseph’s Hospital in Comox, said he knew the facility, like other faith-based hospitals across the country, had developed a “strict” policy of transferring patients asking for assisted deaths.
But it wasn’t until recently, he says, that such patients began streaming into St. Joseph’s – and transferring out – after a federal law came into force June 17 that legalized medically assisted dying for patients whose suffering is intolerable and whose deaths are reasonably foreseeable.
“We’re talking about very sick patients having to be transferred – people who are close to death – and it’s wrong,” Dr. Reggler said.
Later, the newspaper introduces the question of Catholic hospitals' continued funding:
Daphne Gilbert, a law professor at the University of Ottawa, said governments must soon take a stand on whether they will continue funding faith-based hospitals that deny patients a service that the Supreme Court of Canada has defined as their constitutional right.
“The Catholic hospitals have put themselves in a tricky position,” she said.
I'm no expert on Canadian politics, medical care or church-state practices. I've traveled to a number of provinces all over Canada to report various stories, including one earlier this year on Syrian refugees in the Toronto area. But there's so much I don't know or understand about America's neighbor to the north.
Still, I think it's legitimate to expect — whether we're talking about a U.S. or Canadian newspaper — that the story might explain why the Catholic hospitals are refusing to help patients die.
Yes, The Globe and Mail includes a statement from the hospital's top administrator:
Jane Murphy, president and chief executive of the hospital, released a statement Tuesday praising Dr. Reggler as a respected and long-standing member of the committee, but she said her institution will continue to refuse to offer assisted dying.
“The B.C. health sector’s response to [assisted dying] allows for individuals and faith-based hospitals to conscientiously object to the provision of [an assisted death], while providing safe and timely transfers for patients for further assessment and discussion of care options, if required,” her e-mailed statement said. “B.C. has effective processes for transferring patients to other hospitals for numerous medical needs, and minimizing patient discomfort and pain is always the highest priority.
“We will respond to any patient who may request [an assisted death] with respect, support, compassion and kindness and will do so without discrimination or coercion.”
But why does the hospital "conscientiously object" to the practice?
Is it a lack of compassion of suffering patients or something else? Perhaps something related to religious beliefs on the sanctity of life? Wouldn't such context be helpful to readers' understanding of the issues at play?