August 16, 2022
by Jeffrey Barrows, DO, MA (Bioethics)
While it is never possible to accurately paint a picture of the future, especially the future of the complex culture of healthcare, what is happening in Canada should alarm every healthcare professional in the United States who desires to practice medicine according to a Judeo-Christian ethic. Currently, under the misleading moniker of medical assistance in dying (MAiD), euthanasia has been legal in Canada since 2016, when Bill C-14 legalized assisted suicide and healthcare-administered euthanasia. The difference between assisted suicide and healthcare-administered euthanasia centers around who administers the death-causing drugs. The healthcare professional (physician or nurse practitioner) provides access to the drugs in assisted suicide, but the patient self-administers them. In healthcare-administered euthanasia, the physician or nurse practitioner participates more directly in the suicide by giving the drugs to the patient.
Passed in 2021, Bill C-7 expanded access to euthanasia to include patients in whom natural death was not reasonably foreseeable. More than 10,000 people died by euthanasia in Canada in 2021. In March 2023, the current prohibition against considering mental illness as a justification for either assisted suicide or healthcare-administered euthanasia is set to expire, allowing even greater access to these life-taking procedures.
Even more worrisome is Canada’s approach to healthcare professionals who, by virtue of their traditional Hippocratic view of medicine, refuse to participate in either assisted suicide or healthcare-administered euthanasia. While the law does not currently force healthcare professionals to engage in these procedures, they must provide what is known as an effective referral to any patient requesting them. An effective referral is a referral to another healthcare professional who will complete the requested procedure. This has caused some healthcare professionals who object to MAiD to either leave medicine or immigrate to other countries where they have greater freedom to practice according to their conscience.
This episode of the Doubletake podcast from World Magazine contains the story of a physician who made the difficult decision to leave Canada to have the freedom to practice medicine according to his conscience. While that freedom currently exists to a greater degree here in the U.S., it is under attack by multiple governmental and healthcare entities. The question remains…how long will it last? I encourage you to listen to this podcast to understand better what may yet lie in the future of healthcare here in the United States.