Martin Regg Cohn’s column in Saturday’s Toronto Star is headlined (in the print version) “Assisted death can’t be forced on doctors of faith.” He starts the piece by expressing sympathy for doctors who “entered the medical profession to save lives, not to take them,” then states the obvious point that a doctor’s belief should exempt her from performing assisted death as it does from performing abortions. But despite the headline, what he actually goes on to argue is that religious institutions (i.e. publicly funded Catholic hospitals) should be exempt as a whole and also that doctors should not even be required to refer to another doctor. St. Michael’s Hospital is exempt from abortions, he states. I’m not exactly sure what that even means, since buildings don’t perform medical procedures. Should a supportive doctor be barred from assisting a death in a publicly-funded building?
What really bothered me though was this completely unsupported statement:
… faith institutions are among the most motivated – and irreplaceable – providers of palliative care.”
– Martin Regg Cohn, Toronto Star
This strikes me as both condescending and insulting to the fine doctors and nurses across the country in secular hospitals providing palliative care, including the ones who took care of my own father. In what possible way would quality palliative care be irreplaceable outside a Catholic context?
After equating the issues of abortion and assisted death for exemption purposes, he then wants it both ways by saying seemingly the opposite – that doctors can just go into something other that family practice if they want to avoid having to refer patients to another doctor for e.g. contraceptives. But referring to another doctor for assisted death is different, he argues. They shouldn’t be required because, well, the patient could just look it up on the internet. Is referring to a doctor and referring to an internet page of doctors so different?
I haven’t followed the legalities closely, myself; am I off base here? What have your experiences with palliative care been? Should the publicly-funded, but Catholic, institutions be exempt? Let me know your opinions in the comments section.