Mental illness should never be a death sentence

National Newswatch

Margaret Eaton

Anyone living with mental illness knows it can absolutely be grievous and even unbearable. However, what sets mental illness apart from all other types of suffering is that there always remains the hope of recovery. That’s why the Senate’s amendment to C-7, the assisted dying bill, is so concerning.

People with a mental health problem or illness need assistance to live and thrive, not hasten death. . . [Full text]

Navigating Vaccine Ethics

CMDA’s The Point

Reproduced with permission

Jonathon Imbody

CMDA Senior Vice President for Bioethics and Public Policy Dr. Jeff Barrows and I recently wrote a piece for The Public Discourse, “Is Receiving the Pfizer-BioNTech COVID-19 Vaccine Ethical?” that suggested principles to consider as we navigate ethical issues related to COVID-19 vaccines. I’ve included brief highlights below; more from the original article and also new observations will be published in an upcoming edition of CMDA Today (previously known as Today’s Christian Doctor).  

CMDA has approved an ethics statement that can help guide individuals’ analyses of immunizations and the potential for moral complicity with evil:

  1. “Using technology developed from tissue of an intentionally aborted fetus, but without continuing the cell line from that fetus, may be morally acceptable.
  2. “Continued use of a cell line developed from an intentionally aborted fetus poses moral questions and must be decided as a matter of conscience, weighing the clear moral obligation to protect the health of our families and society against the risk of complicity with evil.
  3. “Using a vaccine that requires the continued destruction of human life is morally unacceptable.”

Deciding which COVID-19 vaccine poses the least ethical concerns hinges in part on the implication of abortion in (a) the initial design of the vaccine, (b) the confirmatory testing of the vaccine and (c) the ongoing production of the vaccine. Vaccines that continue to use the abortion-derived cell line in ongoing production pose the most obvious ethical barrier to use by pro-life individuals. This category includes vaccines by AstraZeneca–University of Oxford and by Janssen–Johnson & Johnson. In fact, these vaccines employ abortion-related cell lines in all three stages—design, confirmation and production.

While still ethically concerning, the fact that this remote and limited interaction with abortion does not involve the continuing use of an aborted fetal cell line makes it less ethically problematic compared to its competitors that use these cell lines for ongoing vaccine production.

Unlike the aforementioned COVID-19 vaccine candidates that rely on abortion-derived cells for their ongoing production, the Pfizer-BioNTech vaccine used the HEK-293 cell line from a 1972 abortion only to confirm that messenger RNA was properly coding for the spike protein of the SARS-CoV-2 virus. While still ethically disconcerting, the fact that this remote and limited interaction with abortion does not involve the continuing use of an aborted fetal cell line makes it less ethically problematic compared to its competitors than use these cell lines for ongoing vaccine production.

A consideration of the harm to others that can come without vaccination goes to the heart of Christian ethics in a way that virtually every believer understands: Vaccinating yourself and those who depend on you is an important component of following the command to love thy neighbor.

We recognize that each individual must weigh ethical considerations before making a vaccine decision. When we examine the Pfizer-BioNTech vaccine in light of ethical principles of (a) loving our neighbor by protecting them through our own vaccination, (b) the distance in time from an abortion connection and (c) the fact that the vaccine does not continue to use cell lines derived from an abortion, we find these factors considerable in mitigating the ethical concerns and opening the door to receiving the vaccine in good conscience.

Physician  freedom of conscience in Saskatchewan

Sean Murphy*

Abstract

Physician Assisted Dying adequately accommodates both physician freedom of conscience and patients’ access to services. It demonstrates that the College of Physicians and Surgeons of Saskatchewan could have taken the same approach to freedom of conscience in relation to other procedures and produced a satisfactory policy on conscientious objection.

Conscientious Objection is ambiguous with respect to effective referral and polemical in its treatment of a physician’s traditional obligation to render assistance in an emergency. It demonstrates the authors’ intention to suppress physician freedom of conscience by compelling them to provide or facilitate morally contested procedures, as well as the intricate wordplay necessary to achieve that end. . . [Full text]

Quebec law and freedom of conscience for health care professionals

Sean Murphy*

Unlike other Canadian provinces, Quebec codes of ethics for health care professionals are enacted by provincial statute. Quebec is also unique in having a provincial euthanasia law, which includes a protection of conscience provision for health care professionals specific to that service.

Freedom of conscience for services other than euthanasia
Physicians

The Code of Ethics for Physicians1 and the gloss on the Code by ALDO Quebec,2 an authoritative document, require objecting physicians to advise patients of the consequences of not receiving the contested service, and “offer to help the patient find another physician.” They are not obliged to help the patient find someone willing to provide the contested service. Objecting physicians are normally quite willing to explain how patients can find other physicians or health care professionals. . . [Full text]

Pharmacist  freedom of conscience in Alberta

Sean Murphy*

Code of Ethics (2009)

A protection of conscience provision is found in the Alberta College  of Pharmacy Code of Ethics (2009).1 Objecting pharmacists are directed

  • to help patients “obtain appropriate pharmacy services from another pharmacist or health professional within a time frame fitting the patient’s needs” (clause 3);
  • to arrange their practices so that “the care of [their] patients will not be jeopardized” when they refuse to provide services for reasons of conscience (clause 4);
  • to continue “to provide professional services” until another pharmacist or health professional has assumed responsibility (clause 1).

The text seems to presume that the objecting pharmacist need not provide the morally contested service. The requirement to continue to provide “professional services” until someone else assumes responsiblity does not impose an obligation to provide it if another professional is not available within the relevant time frame. . . [Full text]