Activists prepare to sue Canadian Catholic hospital over assisted suicide refusal

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Advocates of assisted suicide in Canada are preparing to sue a Catholic hospital over its refusal to take part in the deliberate ending of patients’ lives. 

Activists with Dying with Dignity Canada are helping mount a lawsuit against St. Paul’s Hospital in Vancouver due to the hospital’s not allowing suicide to take place in its facility. Doctor-facilitated suicide is legal in Canada under the country’s medical assistance in dying (MAID) law. 

The pending lawsuit was reported on this month by Thomas McKenna at National Review. Dying with Dignity Canada confirmed to CNA this week that the legal complaint had not yet been lodged but would be at some point.

“The lawsuit has not yet been filed,” group spokeswoman Sarah Dobec told CNA. “We’ll have more to say when it has.”

Shaf Hussain, a spokesman for Providence Health Care, which owns St. Paul’s Hospital, declined to speak on the pending litigation. 

“Providence Health Care isn’t able to comment or speculate about what an advocacy group may be planning,” he told CNA. “We have not been served with any court documents regarding this matter.”

Daphne Gilbert, the vice chairwoman of Dying with Dignity Canada, told National Review that the lawsuit would function as a “test case” for forcing Canadian hospitals to take part not just in the killing of patients but in other forms of ideological medicine such as abortion and transgender procedures as well. 

“It would pave the way for the secularization of medical care in Canada,” she told the outlet. “Religious institutions would either have to decide to get out of the business of offering medical care — and it could be taken over by the province — or these institutions would have to align their care with the constitution, even if it opposes their values.”

The looming litigation comes shortly after the Canadian government’s decision to delay expanding its assisted suicide program to include those suffering from mental illness. The government said it was putting off that decision until at least 2027.

Approximately 13,000 Canadians killed themselves using government-sanctioned assisted suicide in 2022, according to the Canadian government’s most recent report.

The Catholic Church strongly opposes assisted suicide and euthanasia, dubbing any form of intentional killing “intrinsically evil.”

Numerous Church leaders have spoken out against assisted suicide in recent years. The practice is legal in several countries and multiple U.S. states.

Winona-Rochester, Minnesota, Bishop Robert Barron pointed out last month that one of the chief rationales used by advocates of assisted suicide — that it brings an end to debilitating pain suffered by terminally ill patients — is “largely beside the point” in the modern world, insofar as “palliative care is so advanced that in practically all cases, pain can be successfully managed.” 

Virginia Bishops Michael Burbidge of Arlington and Barry Knestout of Richmond, meanwhile, said in a statement this month that they were “alarmed and deeply saddened” by an assisted suicide bill making its way through the state Legislature. 

“Human life is sacred and must never be abandoned or discarded,” the Virginia bishops said in their statement, imploring residents to “contact your state senator and delegate” and “urge them to reject assisted suicide legislation.”

Bishops in Maryland in January condemned similar legislation there, as did Catholic leaders in New York and Massachusetts recently.

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