Over a year ago, the Canadian Supreme Court reversed a decision that upheld a law prohibiting doctor-assisted suicide in Canada. The court found that the ban on assisted suicide infringed on individuals’ rights and therefore should be illegal.
The 2015 ruling in Carter v. Canada also made it clear that doctors were under no legal obligation to assist patients with suicide. However, they officially asked the professional colleges that govern medical workers to protect rights of conscience.
Despite the court’s ruling that doctors should be allowed to say no to performing a service that goes against their own morals or values, some medical professionals are saying that there is “no place” for the protection of rights of conscience in medicine.
One article in particular states, “It is implausible that professionals who voluntarily join a profession should be endowed with a legal claim not to provide services that are within the scope of the profession’s practice and that society expects them to provide.”
Arguing that doctors should be forced to provide services that they are morally against in order to eliminate sick individuals sounds like something straight out of Hitler’s Germany. Even a famous medical professional, Dr. Leo Alexander, wrote in 1949 that performing these types of services was a slippery slope into medical complicity during the Holocaust.
Opponents to assisted suicide argue that doctors should not become assistant executioners because it crosses a line and poses a huge risk to society as a whole. This group of advocates for the protection of rights of conscience finds irony in the fact that the Supreme Court, which is supposed to protect individual liberties, is actually allowing a law like this to pass.
It will be interesting to see if what happens in Canada will soon slip through the border and influence legislation in the United States, where five states currently permit assisted suicide. With Canada’s legalization, this number will most likely increase in the near future.