Sanctuary from euthanasia

01 April 2024
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Canadians and their families want to receive care from doctors and medical staff who respect their values and beliefs. For many of us, that means we want doctors we can trust to provide life-affirming care – the kind of care that recognizes the value of each person’s life. We want that for ourselves and for the vulnerable people in our lives.
Such care should not pressure us or our loved ones toward euthanasia even if we might qualify under Canada’s laws.
“Feeling like a burden” is a reason identified by more than one in three Canadians who has their life ended by medical assistance in dying (MAiD). When doctors bring up MAiD to patients who have not requested it and may not want it, patients can feel their lives don’t have value or pressured to ask for MAiD.
Health Canada’s Model Practice Standard for MAiD proposes that provinces should require doctors to raise MAiD with patients who may be eligible – even those patients who haven’t expressed a wish to die – if they think MAiD is consistent with the patients’ values or goals of care.
The EFC has repeatedly argued physicians must not be the ones to suggest MAiD to their patients. Conversations about MAiD should be patient-initiated. This is a key part of protecting patients from feeling pressured to request MAiD in moments of vulnerability.
When a person whose death is considered “reasonably foreseeable” asks for euthanasia, no mandatory waiting period or reflection period is required. A person’s life could be ended as soon as they are assessed by two doctors or nurse practitioners. Their family may not know what’s happening and does not need to be consulted. The patient’s regular family doctor may not be involved. As some have said, this means a person’s worst day could be their last day.
Hospitals and long-term care homes where euthanasia is not available provide a safe space for patients. They also offer conscience protection for doctors and medical staff whose deeply held beliefs exclude them from participating in euthanasia.
There are doctors and nurses who believe every life has value and who cannot participate in intentionally ending the life of any patient. There are some who object to ending the life of a patient who has decades left to live. Others object to ending the life of a patient who may be eligible but is asking to have their life ended by MAiD because they can’t afford to live or access treatment. There will be some who object to ending the life of a patient who has mental illness as their sole medical condition.

For many conscientious objectors, making an effective referral – connecting a patient with a doctor who is willing and available to end the patient’s life – is a form of participation in the death that follows. Objectors required to participate in the process may retire early, leave their practice and profession altogether, or they may suffer moral injury.
Given the already fractured state of Canada’s healthcare systems, it is especially important that we protect doctors from moral injury. No one should be coerced or pressured to participate in euthanasia against their deeply held beliefs – that is a respect for freedom of conscience that benefits doctors and patients.
With your support the EFC is asking for a high bar to be set to protect conscience and to have sanctuaries from euthanasia for patients and doctors. Freedom of conscience is fundamental and must be respected and maintained in laws and policies. The EFC has asked the regulatory bodies for doctors in several provinces to protect conscience and not require effective referrals.
We are aware of court challenges being launched against the ability of faith-based institutions not to provide MAiD on their premises. The EFC is monitoring these developments closely and will apply to intervene in strategic cases.

How you can help

  • Please pray for Canadians in vulnerable situations who may feel their lives don't have value.
  • Pray for strong conscience protection for doctors and health care professionals
  • Your support enables the EFC to monitor these issues and intervene strategically. We deeply value your prayers and donations. See
Also in this issue: Churches again call for action on Russia-Ukraine war, Love Is Moving: Digital is moving forward, Partnership and Innovation update. Updating you on Canada’s most immediate issues. A note from EFC President David Guretzki. More.