Christian elderly care provider in Canada refuses to provide 'medical aid in dying'

Baptist Housing, a Christian senior care provider in Brtiish Columbia, Canada, will not provide physician-assisted death in its facilities, which has disappointed some people who are for allowing terminally ill patients to have the option to end their lives.

(REUTERS/Chris Wattie)A view shows the Supreme Court of Canada in Ottawa February 6, 2015.

"We feel that as a faith organization we would want to exercise our conscience in terms of that," said CEO Howard Johnson, as quoted by CBC News. "We do believe that there is sanctity in life."

Grace Pastine, litigation director of the B.C. Civil Liberties Union, said that the housing's stance is unconstitutional since assisted suicide is legal in Canada and it is "a constitutional right for critically ill Canadians."

While Baptist Housing acknowledges this right, they will not do it in their facilities. Instead, should a client wish to avail of such service, the elderly care provider is willing to help them transfer to a different facility.

"We respect every person in terms of their right," Johnson said. "We would see ourselves as simply providing a safe transfer to an appropriate place to have their wishes honoured."

Last year, the Canadian Supreme Court has ruled that assisted suicide and active euthanasia is an enforceable legal right of Canadian citizens under certain conditions, mainly if an adult patient has a medical condition that causes "enduring and intolerable suffering" or in cases where death is "reasonably foreseeable." This has raised objections, mainly from medical practitioners whose conscience and faith go against the idea. The Supreme Court has given the federal government time to make the necessary changes to the criminal code, and there has reportedly been a recommendation to allow protesting physicans to refer patients to other pracitioners who would do the mercy killing.

According to an article on First Things, a publication of the Institute on Religion and Public Life, this essentially forces the objecting practitioner to still cooperate with the mandate, thus still violating their freedom of conscience. Moreover, the report points out that it would be the nurses and medical assistants who would have to do the act, under the doctor's direction.

Nonetheless, Pastine is reportedly worried that patients who are terminally ill but cannot leave Baptist Housing or refuse to do so will be forced to suffer and die in agony. She believes that doctor-assisted death should be required for all institutions that, in some way, are receiving funds from local health authorities.

"I think it sends a message that their constitutional rights are not respected at Baptist Housing," she said.

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