As many expected, myself included, the Canadian Parliament voted Bill 84 into law the other day, without the hoped-and-fought for conscience protections. As I heard from one physician at the forefront of this battle, the usual placatory assurances from various legislators mean little or nothing, for there is no protection for health care personnel in law. The whole thing revolves around ‘effective referral’, that if you as a doctor or nurse are not willing to kill someone, you had better be sure they are ‘effectively referred’ to somone who will. This is one step away from ‘effectively enforcing’ the same doctor to carry out the act, in those cases where no one else is around.
The more immediate effect of this law, as the same physician warns, will be to drive doctors and nurses with a sound conscience out of palliative, end-of-life care, where they are needed the most. They will of course want to avoid such conflicts of conscience, so will drift into fields where they will not arise, like pediatrics or podiatry. Hospices will soon be places you go to die, in more ways than you might have expected.
In the end, if this continues, we will have fewer and fewer health care workers of ‘sound conscience’, the ranks of applicants being selected for any ‘conservative’ or ‘rigid’ a priori bias, like being ‘anti-choice’, or ‘anti-compassion’. Being a ‘pro-life’ doctor or nurse will become more of an oxymoron than it already (almost) is.
As Pope John Paul II predicted, the culture of death is upon us, and gaining traction.
But God is in charge, and they can only go as far as He permits. If history tells us anything, however, that permission can go quite a ways down the path of Dante’s inferno. We must just always recall, as the Christian martyrs in Egypt have reminded recently us with their suffering, that this temporal life is but a penultimate good, and our real hope and joy reside in heaven.