Statement from the Coalition for HealthCARE and Conscience on the House of Commons passage of Bill C-14 permitting medically assisted dying

Ottawa, ON (May 31, 2016) – With Bill C-14, Medical Assistance in Dying, passing third reading in the House of Commons, the Coalition for HealthCARE and Conscience is urging the Senate to further protect the conscience rights for physicians and facilities in the legislation.

Our group, representing more than 5,000 physicians and 110 healthcare facilities, is pleased to see MPs approved two suggested amendments to the Bill, affirming the protection of freedom of conscience and of religion in the Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedoms and stating that a doctor cannot be compelled to perform euthanasia or physician-assisted suicide. While we oppose any form of assisted suicide/euthanasia, we recognize that Bill C-14 is imminent and that the inclusion of conscience rights is an important first step to protect those who object to hastening death for their patients. 

With Senators acknowledging that they do not feel bound by the June 6 deadline imposed by the Supreme Court of Canada and expecting to further study the legislation, there is more time for us to engage the Senate and push for further enhancements to protect our conscience rights.

Doctors must remain vigilant and push for further amendments to protect their conscience rights. Once this is legalized, doctors will be faced with very difficult choices. They may be required to choose between their career and their beliefs.

The Senate needs to send a clear signal that this Bill must provide clear conscience protection from coast to coast, thereby preventing a patchwork of policies and regulations from province to province. We need a clear statement from the Senate that conscience protection extends to healthcare institutions like hospitals, nursing homes and hospice facilities. It needs to be clearly stated that conscientious objections include direct and indirect participation, such as referrals. 

And we remain concerned about discrimination, that a palliative care physician will be required to perform physician assisted death to get a job, whether or not they believe it is right or wrong. That is discrimination, and discrimination on the basis of personal characteristics like gender, skin colour, religious belief or creed is illegal in Canada.

We urge the Senate to recognize, and address, these shortcomings in the government’s legislation.

About The Coalition for HealthCARE and Conscience:

The Coalition for HealthCARE and Conscience represents a group of like-minded organizations, including representing more than 110 healthcare facilities (with almost 18,000 care beds and 60,000 staff) and more than 5,000 physicians across Canada , that are committed to protecting conscience rights for faith-based health practitioners and facilities. We were brought together by a common mission to respect the sanctity of human life, to protect the vulnerable and to promote the ability of individuals and institutions to provide health care without having to compromise their moral convictions.

To learn more, visit CanadiansforConscience.ca