Nova Scotia hospital forced to provide euthanasia, assisted suicide

Services to be provided in attached building

Arrangement said to preserve Catholic identity

Sean Murphy*

Hospital

St. Martha’s Regional Hospital in Antigonish, Nova Scotia, will begin providing euthanasia and assisted suicide (EAS). The hospital had refused to provide the services because they were considered to be contrary to the Catholic identity of the hospital. The change of policy appears to have been forced by the threat of a lawsuit by EAS advocates. A campaign to force the hospital to permit EAS services had been ongoing for some time [See 958 days without medical assistance in dying policy, Ban on assisted dying at St. Martha’s hospital should end, says law prof].

St. Martha’s was established by a Catholic religious order, the Sisters of St. Martha. However, in 1996 the order transferred ownership of the hospital to the state. The terms of the transfer were set out in a “Mission Assurance Agreement” that required the state to ensure that “the philosophy, mission and values of St. Martha’s Regional Hospital would remain the same and the hospital would keep its faith-based identity.”1

Notwithstanding the terms of the agreement, from 1996 the hospital was not legally a private or Catholic institution, even though it is popularly known as “Nova Scotia’s only Catholic hospital .”2 EAS advocates argued that state ownership of the hospital made it a state actor obliged to provide euthanasia and assisted suicide.1 Logically, this would also apply to abortion, surgical sterilizations, and other procedures contrary to Catholic teaching.

The Nova Scotia Health Authority states that the change of policy is consistent with “the spirit of the Mission Assurance Agreement,”3 which seems to imply that a way has been found for the hospital to “keep its [Catholic] faith-based identify” while providing euthanasia and assisted suicide.

According to NSHA’s Vice President of Health Services and Chief Nursing Executive Tim Guest, euthanasia and assisted suicide will be provided in the Antigonish Health and Wellness Centre, formerly the Martha Center.4

Built in 1961, the Antigonish Health and Wellness Center is attached to St. Martha’s Regional Hospital. In 2009, still known as the Martha Center, it was described as “primarily a professional building” of 92,000 square feet that had undergone major renovations between 2006 and 2009.5

The Sisters of St. Martha have issued a statement:

The Sisters of St Martha were informed that the Nova Scotia Health Authority continues to uphold our Mission Assurance Agreement, while providing access in Antigonish for individuals who request Medical Assistance in Dying (MAID).

The Nova Scotia Health Authority has assured us that Medical Assistance in Dying (MAID) will not take place in St. Martha’s Regional Hospital. We do not own St. Martha’s Regional Hospital, or the building called the Antigonish Health and Wellness Center. . . 6

It is not clear from the statements if assessments and preliminaries for euthanasia/assisted suicide will occur in the hospital building, with actual administration of lethal medication taking place in the Health and Wellness Center.

1. Downie J, GilbertD. Nova Scotia now a leader in medical assistance in dying [Internet]. The Chronicle Herald. 2019 Sep 19.

2. Willick F. Ban on assisted dying at St. Martha’s hospital should end, says law prof [Internet]. CBC News. 2018 Dec 28.

3. Lord R, Quon A. NSHA quietly changes medically assisted dying policy at Catholic hospital [Internet]. Global News. 2019 Sep 18.

4. 989XFM. Nova Scotia Health Authority allows Medically Assisted Death at St. Martha’s Regional Hospital [Internet]. 2019 Sep 19.

5. Guysborough Antigonish Strait Health Authority. Request for Proposal: Radio Frequency (RF) Wireless Site Survey [Internet]. 2009 Apr 17.

6. Boisvert B. Sisters of St. Martha Media Statement [Internet]. 2019 Sep 19.

958 days without medical assistance in dying policy

Lack of government regulation leaves Nova Scotians without access to legal practice and beset by misinformation.

The Coast

Brooklyn Connolly

It’s been 958 days since Bill C-14 passed federal legislation, yet Nova Scotia still lacks a program for medical assistance in dying—MAiD—as well as MAiD policy and regulation.

Without policy, physicians and nurse practitioners have no way of governing MAiD, creating a series of loopholes and lack of general knowledge surrounding the subject. The Nova Scotia Health Authority, meanwhile, has published false information on its website and staff at St. Martha’s hospital in Antigonish still refuse to perform the assistance at all.

Dalhousie professor Jocelyn Downie has been investigating the legal aspects of this for quite some time, and held an open lecture last week in Halifax to present her information. . . [Full text]

Ban on assisted dying at St. Martha’s hospital should end, says law prof

Religious hospital in Antigonish, N.S., has agreement with province allowing it to forego MAID provision

CBC News

Frances Willick

Nova Scotia’s only Catholic hospital is at risk of being found in violation of the Charter of Rights and Freedoms and human rights legislation by refusing to provide medical assistance in dying, a Halifax law professor says.

St. Martha’s Regional Hospital in Antigonish, N.S., is a publicly funded health-care facility. But due to its religious ties, staff are not permitted to provide MAID. . . [Full text]

Physicians are not solely responsible for ensuring access to medical assistance in dying

Diane Kelsall

Physicians are not solely responsible for ensuring access to medical assistance in dyingPatients’ rights to access to medical assistance in dying (MAiD) trumps the religious rights of physicians under the Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedoms  –  or so says the Ontario Superior Court of Justice. But ensuring equitable access to health care is a societal responsibility and does not rest solely on the individual physician. Surely there is a way forward that ensures access for patients requesting MAiD without trampling on physician rights enshrined in law.

 


Kelsall D.  Physicians are not solely responsible for ensuring access to medical assistance in dying. CMAJ February 20, 2018 190 (7) E181; DOI: https://doi.org/10.1503/cmaj.180153

Nova Scotia launches toll-free phone line for women considering an abortion

CTV News Atlantic

The Canadian Press

HALIFAX — Women considering an abortion in Nova Scotia will soon be able to call a toll-free number to access information, arrange testing and set up an appointment.

The phone line will eliminate the need for a doctor’s referral to obtain the time-sensitive procedure.

The Nova Scotia Health Authority says the phone line will be staffed by a clerk or nurse from 8 a.m. to 4 p.m., Monday to Friday. Outside of those hours, callers can leave a voicemail and receive a follow-up phone call. . . [Full text]