Thursday, February 11, 2016

Speaking Of Hypocrisy

So, the Catholic Church thinks it has something relevant to say about physician assisted death?

After reading through the Bishops' letter to Alberta's Premier Notley, it's an amazing piece of hypocritical nonsense.

The Catholic Church is committed to protecting and caring for the most vulnerable people in our society; this includes, of course, those who suffer and dying Albertans. Catholic healthcare in Canada, and in our province, has given witness to this from our earliest history.
Except for those Albertans who happen to be LGBT, apparently.  
We want to be clear that, from a Catholic perspective, the intentional, willful act of killing oneself or another human being is morally wrong. Therefore, no Catholic - including elected officials and healthcare professionals - may advocate for, or participate in any way, whether by act or omission, in the intentional killing of another human being either by assisted suicide or euthanasia.
Once again, we see the Church attempting to dictate the actions of its membership through coercion.  I saw Bishop Henry use exactly this tactic during the gay marriage arguments in the 2000s, where he threatened to excommunicate any Catholic politician who voted for gay marriage.  It wasn't persuasive or relevant then, it isn't now.  
First, if laws and regulations governing the legalized acceptance of assisted suicide and/or euthanasia are to be adopted, then we must accept that they will, in principle and practice, affect all Albertans. Therefore, we ask that your government undertake a consultation process open to any and all who wish to speak to the issue.
Well, since the laws involved are predominantly Federal jurisdiction, I don't see where Alberta's government has much to say about the matter.  Outside of Quebec, no province seems to have significant plans on this matter, and are waiting for June when the Federal Government has to have passed new legislation.
Second, we are gravely concerned that the legalization of assisted suicide and/or euthanasia will place certain members of our common home at serious risk. In jurisdictions that have already adopted laws permitting euthanasia and assisted suicide, what are purported to be “safeguards” against abuse of the law have proven in practice to be no safeguards at all. The measure of a just and ethical society is the extent to which it cares for - and protects - its most vulnerable members.
Really?  What examples would you cite?  Oh, I know, you'd probably dredge up the idiotic crap that LieSite has been spouting ever since a couple of countries in Europe changed their laws.  Besides being largely hysterical reporting, LieSite has an extreme agenda to start with.

However, then the Bishops delve into the bag of "pro-life" lies on the subject:

These are our mothers and our fathers; they built our homes and our province. They are not a burden, and they must not be led to feel that way through our individual and collective indifference.
Yeah.  Sure.  People are not going to ask the doctor to kill their parents off.  However, these Bishops might want to spend some time in a palliative care ward filled with people dying slow, agonizing deaths at the hands of disease before they pull such emotional arguments out of their cassocks.  (I'll come back to this in a moment)
Even today, many of these people often experience unjust discrimination and the sting of stigma from their family, friends, colleagues and society. In other jurisdictions, this group has in particular been disproportionately represented in cases of assisted suicide and euthanasia.
Coming from a Church which denies the validity of transgender identities, and calls homosexuality "a sin", this position is almost laughable.  I wonder if it has occurred to them just how much their teachings contribute to an attempted suicide rate among transgender people that runs upwards of 40%?

They save the money shot for the very end, and delve into the messy pot of issues called "Conscience Rights":
Third, other provincial jurisdictions in Canada have proposed regulations that undermine the conscience rights of physicians and other healthcare workers. This must not be allowed to happen here. Physicians, other medical professionals, and our institutions have to be allowed the freedom that is theirs by right to exercise their conscience, not only to accord with our Charter of Rights and Freedoms, but also as a matter of good medical practice.
Conscience rights is nothing more than the latest pro-life gambit to create a hierarchy of rights that places an individual's religious conscience at the top of the heap.  

Let me be clear.  Assisted death is a very prickly, emotional subject.  Yes, there are religious and conscience issues involved.  Lots of religions teach a particular ethic about life, and even without that stricture in someone's life, many would be rightly uncomfortable with such decisions.

However, it is far too simplistic to simply say "it's a sin, therefore it should be banned".  One only has to spend time in and around palliative care wards watching people in their last days and weeks to know that exiting this world is not always a peaceful, quiet experience.  Terminal illness can be painful and brutal, robbing people of autonomy, dignity and peace.  It's a terrifying, painful experience for some, and one that is not always remediated well by painkillers.

This is a matter of patient rights to self-determination and caregiver ethics coming into some degree of conflict.  Most ethics codes reflect the right of the patient to informed consent, and to refuse treatment.  We have to remember that the person at the center of this discussion is the patient, not the caregiver and definitely not the caregiver's church.  Even the CMA's statement on this subject is fairly clear - a doctor does not have to participate in the actual act, but they are not allowed to be an obstacle to it either.

Where the religious notion of "conscience rights" becomes problematic is that they have begun to extend it to include being "complicit in the deed", usually as a means to try and sidestep the duty to refer to a caregiver who is willing and capable.  We've seen this played with the abortion game, and I have no doubt that's what the Bishops would advocate here as well.  This is where we tip the scales and pass from supporting the individual's conscience rights and it becomes a matter of imposing one's conscience objections on the patient.  Considering the patient's state and vulnerability, this is not only problematic, it is arguably exploitative as it places the patient in a jeopardy situation where they then would have to find the means to access a willing caregiver.  (Which, if you are hospitalized or bedridden, can be damned difficult)

Alberta's Bishops would do us all a favour if they took a more nuanced approach to matters rather than simply trying to railroad the rest of the province with centuries old dogma.  

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