Pro-life - Euthanasia

Physician-assisted suicide: would it be wrong to refer?

Even before euthanasia was legalized in Canada, Christian and other pro-life medical professionals were being pressured to go along. The final report of the Expert Advisory Group on Physician-Assisted Dying said all healthcare providers should be required to:

  • inform patients of all end-of-life options, including physician-assisted dying, regardless of their personal beliefs.
  • either provide a referral or a direct transfer of care to another health care provider or to contact a third party and transfer the patient’s record.

These demands aren’t going away. As ARPA Canada’s Colin Postma noted earlier this month:

“the policy in Ontario requires doctors to provide someone who requests euthanasia or assisted suicide with an effective referral to another doctor, if they refuse to carry out the killing themselves.”

It’s because we’re going to continue to hear these demands that we need to have a ready response to them. So should Christian doctors and nurses be willing to advise patients about all their “end of life options”? And may Christian doctors and nurses who would never help patients kill themselves refer patients to someone else who will? Or would that make them partially responsible for the evil that is then done? We need clarity for our own sakes – if Christian doctors and nurses are going to take a stand against even referring they need to know this is what God requires of them.

So would it be wrong to refer? Sean Murphy of the Protection of Conscience Project says yes, and as simple as his argument is, it’s also compelling. In a piece at Mercatornet.com he noted that before Canada’s Supreme Court legalized assisted suicide, if a physician had made arrangements of any sort to have someone kill their patient they:

“…would be exposed to criminal prosecution as a party to the offense of first degree murder or assisted suicide, or conspiracy to commit first degree murder or assisted suicide.”

In other words, when Canada still recognized assisted suicide as murder, it also recognized that referring for it should be a criminal offense too. Referring meant becoming part of a “conspiracy to commit first degree murder or assisted suicide.”

Now that Canada no longer condemns assisted suicide, it also doesn’t condemn referring. But we know better. We still understand that assisted suicide is murder. So for us it is still clear that even the act of referring is a step too far.

The Devil wants to sow confusion on this point, because where there is confusion, it is hard to take a stand – who among us wants to risk our career on a stand we aren’t sure of? But if we know we are doing what God wants, then the apostle Peter’s encouragement in 1 Peter 3:14-17 can give us the courage we need:

“But even if you should suffer for what is right, you are blessed. ‘Do not fear their threats; do not be frightened.’ But in your hearts revere Christ as Lord. Always be prepared to give an answer to everyone who asks you to give the reason for the hope that you have. But do this with gentleness and respect, keeping a clear conscience, so that those who speak maliciously against your good behavior in Christ may be ashamed of their slander. For it is better, if it is God’s will, to suffer for doing good than for doing evil.”

When we are clear in our own minds, then we can make a clear stand to the world. We can share that we think this murder and want no part in it. We can make a compelling case that the government shouldn’t force doctors and nurses to do what it would have prosecuted them for just a few years ago. And we can point out that asking doctors to violate their conscience is only going to lead to doctors without consciences….and who would think that a good development?

Standing with God may bring suffering. But we’ve also seen how He can use such a stand to bring relief to Christian doctors and nurses. In Manitoba, earlier this month, the provincial government passed Bill 34, which offers at least some conscience protection to medical personal who don’t want to refer.

So let’s continue to pray and work. May God give Christian doctors and nurses the freedom to continue their life-saving work, and may He give us all the courage and clarity to speak his Truth to a lost and confused world that so desperately needs to hear it.

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