Critics say government’s directives will promote Medical Assistance in Dying

Paul Tuns:

On March 27, Health Canada released its new “Model Practice Standard for Medical Assistance in Dying,” direction for physicians that critics say will continue the federal government’s promotion of euthanasia, which has killed more than 31,000 Canadians since it became legal in 2016 under the euphemism Medical Assistance in Dying (MAiD).

The “Model Practice Standard” are “guidelines” that are essentially directives for health care professionals, including so-called MAiD assessors. They allow for virtual euthanasia and physician-assisted suicide and state medical professionals such as doctors and nurses should not notify friends or relatives of assisted suicide requests without the consent of their patients, although they can explain “the potential harms of nondisclosure.”  They also require physicians to refer patients to another doctor if they are not willing to participate in the medicalized killing.

Furthermore, the Health Canada document require that physicians and nurses inform patients who qualify for euthanasia or assisted-suicide that they are eligible for MAiD.

The Health Canada directive states that while doctors and nurses cannot be compelled to take part directly in killng patients, they must refer patients to medical professionals who will. Conscience rights advocates insist that referring patients for euthanasia still implicates a doctor or nurse in the medicalized murder. Doctors who oppose euthanasia would be expected to broach the topic of eligibility, in violation of their conscientious objection to the practice.

Alex Schadenberg, executive director of the Euthanasia Prevention Coalition, said the new directives, “undermine (conscience) rights that exist in certain provinces,” noting that Manitoba recognizes conscience rights of medical professionals, including the right to not refer patients to willing medical executioners.

Health Canada explains that the new Model Practice directives were designed to “ensure that MAiD practice in Canada can operate in a consistent and safe manner across the country” and the guidance “will help clinicians align their practice with clear guidance and will assist regulators to ensure the protection of the public in the context of complex cases, including where the person’s sole underlying medical condition is a mental illness.”

In March, Parliament delayed implementing euthanasia for people suffering solely from mental illness until March 17, 2024.

Pro-life advocates say that the new standards do not protect vulnerable people and violate the conscience rights of health care professionals.

Schadenberg said, “All of these ‘guidelines’ are designed to make MAiD/euthanasia appear to be carefully carried out and yet, the medical practitioner only needs to be of the opinion that the person fits the criteria of the law.”

Amanda Achtman of Canadian Physicians for Life told the Catholic News Agency, “The goal of MAiD is to end a person’s suffering by causing death and so, contrary to the language in the documents, there is no ‘safe’ way to do it when it comes to the outcome for the patient.” She described the new Model Practice Standard as “a further attempt by the Canadian government to normalize euthanasia as medical care,” explaining, “Through the use of acronyms, euphemisms, and professional jargon, the Canadian government is expanding euthanasia to an ever-widening demographic of Canadians as a means to end their suffering.”

Regarding the guidance to doctors and nurses not to inform family of a patient’s suicide request, Achtman said “that a loved one can be euthanized without the family having even the slightest idea about it until it’s too late.” She said the guidance will lead to patients to “be euthanized secretly.”