Euthanasia: Permitted not Mandated
Recent news articles have recounted the fight between Fraser Health and the Irene Thomas Hospice in Delta, BC. Already back in 2016, Fraser Health – the local health authority responsible for serving 1.8 million British Columbians in the Lower Mainland – dictated that all hospices must provide euthanasia.
After an outcry by citizens and hospices, Fraser Health softened its directive by allowing faith-based hospices to continue to live out their mission of neither hastening death nor intentionally ending life. Fraser Health still required non-denominational hospices to provide euthanasia.
The Irene Thomas Hospice, a non-denominational hospice in Delta, is a heroic holdout. It refused to intentionally end the lives of its patients, a decision reinforced by their newly-elected board. In the face of such defiance, Fraser Health is now withholding funds and patients from the hospice until they relent. Fraser Health is using patients in need of care as bargaining chips.
Fraser Health should keep this in mind: to permit is not to mandate. The Supreme Court in Carter struck down the complete criminal prohibition on euthanasia and left Parliament to rewrite the law. Parliament then amended the Criminal Code to permit (to no longer prosecute and punish people for) euthanasia in certain circumstances. But permitted does not equal mandated.
Fraser Health is not obligated to mandate that all hospices provide euthanasia. In fact, such a mandate plainly violates the liberty and conscience rights of those who oppose euthanasia.
Many doctors consider euthanasia – killing of a patient – to be antithetical to health care. But even if Fraser Health wants to pretend that it is a health care service and ensure that people can get it if they want it, it does not have to mandate that Irene Thomas Hospice euthanize its patients.
Fraser Health does not even mandate that every hospital provide necessary cancer treatments or complex surgeries, even though patients may want the closest hospital to provide these services. If Fraser Health is not obliged to provide every health care service at every hospital, then it is not obliged to mandate that every hospice provide euthanasia.
Let us stand with hospices like Irene Thomas Hospice to ensure that the purpose of health care is to improve lives not hasten deaths.