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]

Alberta private member’s bill to reopen debate on physician conscience rights

UCP MLA Dan Williams says his bill is meant to simply affirm Charter rights

CBC News

Dean Bennett

Alberta politicians are to debate the role of conscience rights and the responsibilities of physicians asked to assist or advise on abortions, contraception or medically assisted deaths.

United Conservative backbencher Dan Williams is to introduce Thursday a private member’s bill to reassert the Charter-protected freedom of conscience and religion for health providers.

Williams says the bill is in response to an Appeal Court of Ontario ruling this spring.

Ontario’s high court affirmed a lower court ruling that found physicians who object on moral grounds to contentious issues like abortion must offer patients an “effective referral” to another health provider. . . [Full text]

Alberta Catholic doctors fear erosion of conscience rights

Grandin Media

Andrew Ehrkamp

Many Catholic doctors in Alberta are worried that they will soon be forced to provide referrals for medically assisted suicide, says the head of the provincial St. Luke’s Physicians’ Guild.

Dr. Mary Ellen Haggerty says a recent Ontario court decision sets a precedent that will lead to a legal requirement that any doctor in Alberta must provide that referral. For Catholics, such a referral would make them morally complicit in the act itself. To date the doctors have been protected by the Charter rights to freedom of conscience and freedom of religion if they refused to participate in assisted suicide and euthanasia, as well as abortion and other controversial procedures. . . [Full text]

Alberta health minister reviewing rules around assisted dying at faith-based facilities

Sarah Hoffman acknowledges public complaints following CBC News investigation

CBC News

Jennie Russell

Health Minister Sarah Hoffman says her ministry is reviewing options that would allow Alberta Health Services to provide medical assistance in dying at faith-based health facilities while respecting religious objections, although she cautions the province is “not there yet.”

In an interview, Hoffman said she has received public feedback urging her to reverse her 2016 exemption that allowed Catholic health provider Covenant Health, which is publicly funded, to opt out of providing access to the procedure. . . [Full text]

Alberta rate of physician-assisted suicide climbs to four or five a week

Calgary Sun

Bill Kaufmann

The rate of those choosing physician-assisted death in Alberta continues to increase and more are opting out of dying at home, say Alberta Health Services officials.

Since Feb. 6 when the procedure was made possible, 76 people in the province have taken that route to end their lives, which in Alberta is through the intravenous delivery of drugs.

In the week from Jan. 9 to 16, five more people died with the assistance of a physician, a process that became fully legal last June.

That pace has been a surprise to medical practitioners, said Dr. James Silvius, the AHS’s lead for medical assistance in dying. . . .[Full text]