Christian doctors’ group barred from testifying at Quebec euthanasia hearing

veronique-hivonA group of Christian doctors opposing Quebec’s proposed euthanasia legislation, denied permission to present its views to the committee studying the bill, is warning the bill could require physicians to act against their religious principles.

The Christian Medical and Dental Society (CMDS) Canada was only told last Thursday morning — the final day of consultations — that its request had been denied.

The Quebec bill controversially proposes “terminal palliative sedation and medical aid in dying” as part of a new set of rules for Quebec healthcare professionals and institutions.

The rejection of the Christian doctors’ bid to join the euthanasia debate comes amid the Quebec government’s aggressive secularism agenda, embodied by its proposed charter of values.

The Christian medical group — which represents 1,500 doctors across Canada and 50 in Quebec — is alarmed that the bill could require physicians in Quebec to betray their principles. The proposed law would force all doctors in the province to refer any patient who wants to end his or her life to a medical board, which the group said is ethically problematic for its members.

“We are disappointed that we were not told until the last day of hearings that we were unable to present,” said Larry Worthen, executive director of the group. “We are concerned about the bill’s lack of explicit conscience protection for physicians, pharmacists, and nurses.”

Furthermore, he says rejection by the committee fuels fears held by Christian doctors working in Quebec that their faith-based opinions on medical issues will not be taken seriously. Some doctors are even afraid of identifying themselves as Christian, said Mr. Worthen.

We are concerned about the bill’s lack of explicit conscience protection for physicians, pharmacists, and nurses.

– Larry Worthen, CMDS

Dr. Liette Pilon, representative for the group’s doctors in Quebec said, “we cannot impose our values on a non-Christian society, but we hope the committee considers very carefully … the universal value of human life.”

Special consultations on the bill began Sept. 17, by invitation only. Groups not invited by the committee were required to submit an invitation request to committee secretary Anik Laplante, who passed requests along to leaders of the committee.

Fifteen uninvited groups submitted requests to present during the consultations, two of which were faith-based, said Ms. Laplante.

Ms. Laplante said information on the denied requests is “not available to the public.”

Briefs submitted to the committee, including those by groups unable to present, can be found on the bill’s webpage, said Laurie Comtois, a government spokesperson.

The National Assembly is “confident to get through the process before Christmas or … the beginning of the next year,” said Ms. Comtois.

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