Forum focused on issues related to medical assistance in dying


“There will be individuals who will want to access MAID but the health facility they are in will refuse for reasons of freedom of religion or conscience,” notes an official

What happens when freedom of conscience and freedom of religion meet medical assistance in dying (MAID)?

Jocelyn Downie, University Research Professor in the Faculties of Law and Medicine at Dalhousie University, will address this topic in her virtual discussion of the Harold G. Fox Distinguished Speaker Series hosted by Lakehead University on Tuesday, January 25 at 7 p.m. .

“Medical assistance in dying is legal in Canada,” Downie said. “There will be people who want to access MAID but whose healthcare providers have a religious or conscientious objection to participating.

“There will be people who want to access MAID but the health facility they are in will refuse, for reasons of freedom of religion or conscience, to allow assessments or the provision of MAID in their walls.

“There will be health care providers who want to provide MAID but whose colleagues, employers or facilities prevent them from doing so. What does the law say about such situations? What should he say?

From this discussion, participants will learn that the issue of individual and institutional conscientious objection is very important. It matters for those experiencing moral distress if they are forced to act against their religion or conscience, Downie said.

“And that is important for those who face barriers or delays in accessing MAID (a legal health care service) in Canada – with the potential for extreme suffering and, at times, loss. absolute access.

Downie said individual conscientious objection is controversial but clear in law — clinicians have an obligation to provide an effective referral or transfer of care to a non-objecting clinician or MAID program. Institutional conscientious objection is controversial and is not yet clear in law.

“I think we should defend the current position on individual objections and that we should argue that publicly funded institutions should not be allowed to create barriers to accessing assessments and providing the AMM even when they invoke an objection based on religion or conscience.

Downie’s work on end-of-life law and policy includes Special Advisor to the Canadian Senate Committee on Euthanasia and Assisted Suicide; author of Dying Justice: A Case for the Decriminalizing Euthanasia and Assisted Suicide in Canada; and a member of the Royal Society of Canada’s Expert Panel on End-of-Life Decision-Making, the plaintiffs’ legal team in Carter v. Canada (Attorney General), the Provincial-Territorial Expert Advisory Group on Physician-Assisted Dying, and the Canadian Council of Academies’ Expert Committee on Physician-Assisted Dying.

She was appointed a Member of the Order of Canada in part in recognition of her work in support of high quality end-of-life care. She is also a Fellow of the Royal Society of Canada and the Canadian Academy of Health Sciences.

Register now for this insightful discussion:



Comments are closed.