Is Catholic palliative care irreplaceable?

by | April 9, 2017

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.

13 thoughts on “Is Catholic palliative care irreplaceable?

  1. Stephen Oberski

    The question that I would ask is why is any religious organisation involved in our publicly funded health system ?

    Or education system for that matter.

    I would be hard pressed to name any organisation that cared less for human well being than the Catholic church.

    It’s time to frame this conversation in terms of removing the Catholic church from our health, child care (seriously is there a more glaring oxymoron than Catholic Children’s Aid Society ?) and education systems.

    Let this group of ageing Peter Pan’s lost boys gone feral get the fuck out of secular services of this nature and go back to their core values, fleecing the faithful, which is their real area of expertise and unlike most other endeavours entered into by this multi-national criminal organisation, a consensual one.

    1. Jim Atherton

      I certainly agree with your statements, especially “…this multi-national criminal organization,…”, however, I would broaden it to include the whole Christian Religion. As far as I know any criminal organization which can creep under the Christian umbrella gets all the same legalized criminal protections, mainly tax evasion, enforced by whatever other criminal activity is required. If it’s something as simple as murder to get some inconvenient truth out of the way I’m sure their are always plenty of good Christian Hell’s Angels or mafia hit men who would be glad to oblige just out of the goodness of their Christian hearts, for the greater good of the cause of course.

      Of course if the problem is more serious, like a whole group of individuals who aren’t paying their due respects to the gang, well then a genocidal butcher like Hitler might be in order. I’ve never seen any evidence to indicate that they’ve ever had any difficulty finding one whenever they need one. How about Donald Trump if they happen to need one now days.

      I don’t know if your very terrified of ending up in one of those St. Mary’s, St. ad infinitum crazy hospital places, but I sure always have been. Better be lucky, if you ever have to go to the Emergency Room, it’s just like Russian Roulette, you may not have any choice.

  2. Indi

    I’m not a legal expert, but I have a sense that if this kind of thing were ever really challenged in the courts, it wouldn’t fly. *Doctors* can have religious or conscientious beliefs that might require them to refuse to provide some treatment… *institutions* cannot. And even worse, it *cannot* be legit for a “religious” institution to force “its beliefs” on nonreligious doctors working within it, while secular institutions are not allowed to force “their secular ethics” on religious doctors. I mean… *clearly* that’s bullshit. There’s just no way it can stand.

    I believe there has already been some jurisprudence in the area of requiring doctors to provide “effective referrals” if they cannot/will not provide the procedure. I *think* it’s now pretty much established, or just on the cusp of being established, that a doctor’s religious or whatever objections can exempt them from having to perform a procedure themselves, but that they *MUST* provide an effective referral.

    So all that’s left to be challenged at this point is whether institutions have the right to enforce “their beliefs” on the doctors working there. Which, as I said, I can’t possibly see that as being kosher.

  3. CJ Abbot

    Isn’t religion about saying one thing while doing another? The whole practice of religion is based on deception. What they want, as capitalistic as they are, is money and power. And they will grab it from anywhere. The roots of both our educational system (dumbing us down to prepare us for labor, battle, and breeding) and medicine (the mechanistic method which treats us like machines, rather than taking a whole bodied approach) began to help further religious goals. And they, for the most part, continue to do just that. As to whether or not it would stand up in court? Ask yourself where our legal system came from? It is based on religious laws…the In God We Trust behind the judges bench, place your hand on the bible… Religion places burdens on us in all aspects of life.

    1. Jim Atherton

      Christianity is really about crime, about how to get something for nothing. It is strictly based on threat and intimidation. I don’t ever want anyone who doesn’t speak my language living in my community, that would make it someone else’s community, not mine. No Christian person has ever or will ever speak my language. Christians are nothing but a fatal cancer in any community I represent and I will always do everything in my power to remove them from it.

      I can’t really speak about other religions since the only one I really know is the one I grew up with, Christianity. However, I do understand that I should concentrate my efforts on eliminating the devil I know before I start worrying about the devil I don’t.

  4. CJ Abbot

    I don’t know if this would ruin your day or help it, but two books really come to mind with this conversation. The first is Caliban and the Witch (Federici, 2004). It is a fully referenced book about how christianity brutally forced itself on us as it planted the seeds of capitalism. It took away our right just to be, by forcing us to become working, breeding, non-feeling bodies instead.
    The next book is The Entity (Frattini, 2004) – Five centuries of secret vatican espionage. It’s just as horrific as the first book. Both worthy reads that will keep many things on the tip of your tongue if someone ever asks why your not religious. My trademark answer is that I don’t hate the environment, animals or children. How can I be religious?

  5. Bubba Kincaid

    I think there is danger in turning the subject of supervised death/termination wholesale into a religious vs. secularist debate.

    1. steve oberski

      I have yet to see any argument against assisted death that was not grounded in religious dogma.

      This is just the latest conflict resulting from the intersection of secular/humanist and religious values and is playing out in a similar manner to previous clashes over the rights of women to have full control over their bodies and the rights of homosexuals and transgender people to be accorded equal treatment under the law, where all opposition to these movements was religiously motivated.

      1. Bubba Kincaid

        Err….I believe there is a whole anti-eugenicist faction which is exemplary in it’s progressive diversity.

        Not too mention historically strong support for eugenics from religious cadres.

        Not so clear as you’d like to make out.

        1. Stephen Oberski

          Assisted death is not eugenics.

          Although this is a narrative used by religiously motivated opposition to assisted death.

          Usually as part of a slippery slope argument.

          You see similar arguments used by religiously motivated anti-choice groups, where access to abortion is equated with a lack of respect for human life and blamed for everything from gang violence, terrorism and rap music.

          1. Bubba Kincaid

            You also see inventory accountings such as yours by eugencists and people holding eugenicist type sympathies and logics, but wishing to in some ways obscure that position by seeking to couch the debate as only between secularist and religionists.

            So as I said, there is danger there.

  6. Randy

    “entered the medical profession to save lives, not to take them”

    Doctors are not in the business of saving lives. They have NEVER saved a life. All they can do is try to improve the life you’re having.

  7. Randy

    “Should the publicly-funded, but Catholic, institutions be exempt?”

    There should not be any publicly-funded Catholic institutions. Further, to ensure that everyone has access to good palliative, long-term, and end-of-life care, it should be strictly illegal for a religious institution to own or operate one of these facilities.

    Where I live, they are the only game in town. This means I will be planning my own exit, before it gets to that point.


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