After a ruling from the Supreme Court, the Canadian government has passed laws to allow people with terminal illnesses to seek medically assisted suicide. The law is restricted to mentally competent adults who have serious and incurable illness. It outlines safeguards to protect vulnerable Canadians, but does not include some*of the more controversial recommendations from a parliamentary committee, including extending the right to die to "mature minors" and the mentally ill, and allowing advance consent for patients with degenerative disorders.
Since the law was passed, Catholic hospitals, which are publicly funded institutions, have taken the position that they have religious rights under the Charter of Rights and Freedoms and have instructed their doctors not to perform the service.
Publicly funded Catholic hospitals are not given tax dollars primarily for religious purposes. All Ontario hospitals, Catholic and others, exist to deliver medically required services, and they are funded by the province for that purpose. All hospitals recognize that for some patients, religious counsel, empathy and end-of-life support are vital to holistic care. We do not pay for publicly funded hospitals for the purpose of providing 'religious care.' Therefore, Catholic hospitals do not operate in a way that "accords” with a religious purpose and allows the institution to opt out of providing the constitutional right of a medical service to a dying person.
The new Canadian law that permits medical assistance in dying requires that the person have a 'grievous, irremediable condition that is causing physical and psychological suffering. Death must be reasonably foreseeable. The people asking for assistance are suffering, in pain, and near death. They have the constitutional right to assistance in dying without pain, and with dignity. While an individual physician may have a Charter-protected religious right to ask another doctor to take over the role of ending a life, a hospital has no constitutional right to prohibit all its physicians from doing so.
Catholic hospitals receive enormous amounts of taxpayer dollars to provide public services. They serve not only Catholics but people of all faiths and the non-religious. The law allowing medically assisted death has been passed after decades of debate, discussion, research, and court cases, all of which lead to the Supreme Court decision which is supported by the vast majority of the country. The Catholic hospitals cannot bury their heads in the sand by denying rights to the dying as if all our laws are subject to their religious views.