The Canadian province of Ontario wants to make assisted suicide easier for people.
Soon, people wanting to kill themselves will be able to seek direct assistance to do so instead of consulting with health care providers who might find the request morally objectionable.
Ontario Health Minister Eric Hoskins says he’ll have a “care co-ordination service” ready for operation as early as May.
The service will enable patients to find “health-care providers” who don’t object to helping the patients kill themselves.
“That patient, or their family members or their caregiver, would have the ability to be in contact with the care-co-ordination service directly,” Hoskins said.
“They would then, through that process, that phone call or email, be linked into all of what’s required. If they chose medical assistance in dying, they would be able to follow that through to completion.”
Assisted suicide has only been legal in Canada for less than a year but the “medical service” has proven popular in Ontario, where 365 people have opted for the procedure between June 2016 and the end of March 2017.
Ontario, with a left-of-center Liberal government that already promotes graphic sex education for early elementary school, has been actively engaged in making the procedure easier to use.
As soon as assisted death was legalized, the Ontario ministry of health established a help-line for doctors seeking other doctors who were willing to end their patients’s lives. Much as they are forced to do if asked to perform an abortion against their wishes, Ontario law forces doctors to refer their patients to another physician to do whatever procedure the patient’s regular doctor refuses to do.
That hasn’t stopped some physicians who object to assisted suicide because of moral or religious convictions from refusing to make those calls — or at least telling the government that they object being put into what they consider the morally untenable situation of enabling a person to kill themselves.
The advocacy group Dying with Dignity has been actively monitoring instances where doctors inhibit somebody’s determination to seek assisted suicide. It has relayed these cases to the provincial health minister and Hoskins says that is precisely why he has authorized the new “care co-ordination service” so patients can avoid the obdurate doctors who stand in their way of death.
But that won’t be enough for Dying With Dignity CEO Shanaaz Gokool who allows that the new service is an “improvement” but wants the province to go further and just insist that faith-based organizations not be allowed to decline requests to assist in a suicide. That would mean repealing a section of the assisted suicide legislation that allows them to opt-out. But Gokool doesn’t think that’s much of an infringement on freedom of religion. She says it’s inconvenient to expect people in religious hospitals to have to transfer to another medical facility just to find a doctor who will help them commit suicide.
“If you’re in a facility and they’re refusing to assess you, and refusing to help you, and you can’t help yourself, who’s going to do that for you?” she said.