November 2016 – Striking a balance on MAID

Conscience rights protection over medically assisted death an important part of our democracy

Recently Concordia hospital and its affiliate, Concordia Place Care Centre, joined St. Boniface Hospital by announcing that they would not provide medically assisted deaths to their patients due to a conscientious objection rooted in the organizations’ faith beliefs. This brought the national conversation about euthanasia (more recently referred to as Medical Assistance In Death or MAID) home as Concordia Hospital and Concordia Place serve our area and our families. A public statement explained:

Concordia believes that providing health care is a ministry assigned to us by Christ and is expressive of our Anabaptist faith, values and ethics… our opposition to the practice of MAID based on our ethical and moral beliefs needs have been recognized and honoured by the WRHA, and Concordia Hospital and Concordia Place will not offer the service of MAID.

Manitoba Health should be applauded for respecting the right of these organizations to follow their conscience to navigate this difficult issue. This acceptance provides a middle road that I hope will be repeated frequently in other conversations in our increasingly complex culture. Conscience rights should not be brushed aside by those who disagree, and Manitoba Health is correct to honour Concordia’s wishes in light of the excellent care these institutions have offered and will continue to offer generations of Manitobans. Their refusal to perform medically assisted deaths does not compromise the rights of their patients or the integrity of their overall service.

It is important to bear in mind that not every health procedure is available at every health facility in Manitoba. Winnipeg has a Women’s Hospital, a Children’s Hospital, and other facilities specializing in a variety of procedures including hip and knee replacements, heart surgeries and neonatal care. Manitobans requesting and qualifying for medically assisted death can do so from any institution, including Concordia Hospital or Place, who will refer such requests to a medically assisted death team for assessment.

By objecting to medically assisting deaths on grounds of conscience, Concordia and St Boniface are strengthening democracy for all of us. Manitoba Health has replied with wisdom and struck an appropriate balance that respects Federal law, patient access and conscientious objection. Such recognition and accommodation of religious freedom is part of our Canadian democratic tradition. On the heels of a polarizing and often unpleasant American election, it is refreshing to see a local demonstration of understanding amidst differences, and of meaningful partnership between faith groups and a government willing to work with them.

Andrew Micklefield is the MLA for Rossmere and Government House Leader

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