Not referring patients for euthanasia is a matter of conscience

Re: Balancing one right with another for access to assisted dying, June 14

Read the article at the Star

Balancing one right with another for access to assisted dying, June 14 

Mr. Warren misrepresents what is meant in medicine by a referral. In referring a patient to another physician, I make a pledge of responsibility to that patient that I am acting in their best interest. Whether that other physician proceeds or not with a given intervention is immaterial to my duty to only refer for the good of the patient. If I refer to a surgeon who I know to be careless and unskilled, it doesn’t matter whether the surgery goes forward or not — the referral itself is immoral. Likewise with euthanasia: if I refer for an assessment for medical killing, the referral itself has a moral weight, regardless of whether the patient receives the needle.

It is offensive to read Mr. Warren accuse conscientious objectors of “abandoning” or “impeding” patients in their hour of need. Myself, along with hundreds of other physicians who object to killing patients, want nothing more than to serve our patients in their final illness, providing them with the best possible medical care and showing true compassion. Not wishing to provide or participate in euthanasia as a matter of conscience in no way impedes the broader society (including Mr. Warren’s organization) from providing this “service”. Forcing physicians to refer for euthanasia against their good conscience will only serve to break their personal integrity, the same integrity which they swore to uphold in their life and profession.

Lucas Vivas, MD FRCPC, Toronto