To kill — or not to kill? That is the question.

An answer for a Dying With Dignity clinical advisor

Sean Murphy*

I just can’t understand why as learned as you are, you tenaciously use the verb KILL to refer to MAD. You cannot ignore that this verb requires a non-consenting victim. It makes of you a malicious pro-lifer who does not mind lying. MAD must be requested ! Camus wrote: «To misname things amount to adding to the world’s misery»…in La Pléiade, Oeuvres complètes p. 908.

This message was left for the Project Administrator by a member of the Clinicians’ Advisory Council of Dying With Dignity (DWD) Canada after he/she had downloaded several papers from the Administrator’s Academia web page.

The downloaded papers do not challenge the legalization of euthanasia and assisted suicide (EAS). The substantive morality of the procedures and their legalization is outside the scope of Project advocacy. The papers simply defend practitioners unwilling to be parties to killing their patients by providing or facilitating EAS services.

Unfortunately, the DWD Clinical Advisor was exasperated by the description of euthanasia and assisted suicide as “killing.” This, he/she exclaims, is a malicious lie that adds to the world’s misery.

Such a cri de cœur calls for a thoughtful discussion of the question it raises.

Does providing euthanasia and assisted suicide entail killing — or does it not? [Full text]

Alberta’s doctors say they worry about the effects of a conscience rights bill

The Globe and Mail

Christina Frangou

Dr. Jillian Demontigny keeps a rainbow bracelet wrapped around the stethoscope that she drapes across her neck. It’s her signal to any LGBTQ patient who arrives at her clinic: you are welcome here.

Dr. Demontigny is one of 13 physicians working at the Taber Clinic, a family medicine clinic in a southern Alberta town of 8,500 people. Over her 14 years in Taber, she has expanded her practice to offer extra supports for patients looking for the kind of health care that can be hard to access in this rural, conservative region, where anti-abortion billboards are posted along the highway. . . [Full text]

Controversial conscience rights bill will die on order paper

Second session of 30th legislature starts on Feb. 25

CBC News

Michelle Bellefontaine

A controversial private member’s bill on conscience rights for medical providers will be dropped now that the government intends to prorogue the first session of the 30th legislature. 

Government House Leader Jason Nixon announced on Wednesday that the second session will start Feb. 25 with a speech from the throne. . . [Full text]

Indiana assisted suicide bill fails to protect objecting practitioners

Assisted suicide evolves from “assistance” to  “medical care”

Affirmation has serious consequences for objecting  Indiana physicians

Sean Murphy*

On 7 January, 2020, Representative Matt Pierce introduced HB1020: End of life options in the Indiana General Assembly. HB1020 is the fourth assisted suicide bill introduced by Pierce since 2017; three previous bills died in committee without hearings. Parts of HB1020 relevant to protection of conscience are reproduced on the Project website.

Overview

The bill permits physician assisted suicide for Indiana residents 18 years of age and older who have been diagnosed with a terminal illness likely to cause death within six months. [Full text]

New Hampshire assisted suicide bill introduced

Protection of conscience provision biased against objectors

Sean Murphy*

New Hampshire House Bill 1659 would legalize assisted suicide. Parts of the bill relevant to protection of conscience are reproduced on the Project website.

The bill permits physician assisted suicide for New Hampshire residents 18 years of age and older who have been diagnosed with a terminal illness likely to cause death within six months. Candidates who are capable of making and  communicating health care decisions must apply in writing for a lethal prescription (137-M:3); the application must be witnessed by two independent witnesses (137-M:4).  The candidate must apply personally; substitute medical decision makers cannot apply on behalf of a patient (137-M:3.III).

The bill imposes a number of obligations on physicians primarily responsible for treating a patient’s terminal illness (137-M:5) and upon physicians consulted by them about the illness (137-M:6).  These would be unacceptable to physicians who refuse to participate in assisted suicide for reasons of conscience.

Section 137-M:14 (Immunities) is the provision that is intended to protect objecting health care providers, which includes individuals and health care facilities.  The protection offered is biased in favour of those willing to participate in assisted suicide and insufficient to protect those unwilling to do so.  Specifically:

  • 139-M:14.I limits protection against civil, criminal and professional liability to persons willing to participate in assisted suicide; no protection is provided for those who refuse. It also prevents objecting institutional health care providers from taking action against employees who participate in assisted suicide on their premises.
  • 139-M:14.II protects both participants and non-participants equally, but also prevents objecting institutional health care providers from taking action against individuals who ignore prohibitions against assisted suicide on their premises.
  • 139-M14.III protects those providing assisted suicide drugs against negligence complaints, but does not similarly protect those who refuse to provide assisted suicide drugs.
  • 139-M14.IV declares that no health care provider is under a duty to participate in assisted suicide.  However, the provision is ambiguous because it is inconsistent with the lack of protection noted in 139-M4.I and III.