The right of faith based hospitals and nursing homes to refuse to provide euthanasia and assisted suicide on their premises has been dealt a blow by the draft legislation introduced by the Queensland government. Whilst faith based entities had been led to believe that the draft legislation would protect them from having to allow euthanasia on their premises, the legislation introduced this week requires them to transfer a person who qualifies for euthanasia to somewhere else that allows it, or in other circumstances, allow the killing to take place on their premises.
Catholic Health Australia provides one in five hospital and aged care beds in Queensland, whilst the Uniting Church runs four major health care centres as well as 47 nursing homes statewide.
Deputy Premier Steven Miles has defended the government’s backflip on the commitment to respect conscientious objection:
“In some situations, requiring an individual to leave their home and transfer to a different hospice, when they’re close to death and in great pain, would subject them to pain and distress or deny them access to VAD.”
However Pat Garcia, Chief Executive of Catholic Health Australia, said “the existing provisions would force faith-based hospitals and homes to enable VAD on the premises.”
“There is no choice in that … We have to consider the impact this supposedly voluntary scheme will have on nurses, residents and patients who choose to work, live and be treated in facilities that have expressly said they will not offer [euthanasia and assisted suicide]. It’s a serious anomaly that must be addressed.”
Uniting Church’s Queensland Moderator, Andrew Gunton, expressed his disappointment that the draft legislation failed “to deliver a promised right of ‘institutional conscientious objection.”
“It seems incredibly unfair and not to what the spirit we thought this was going to be, having institutional conscientious objection” he said. “We think it undermines the very principle which we are fighting for – our right to express our faith-based values in the facilities we run.”
This is not just a theoretical concern. As we have reported previously, in Canada, a hospital was forced to close down because it refused to provide euthanasia on its premises.
As articulated in the editorial in the Australian newspaper, if patients are aware of the stance of the organisation before choosing to avail themselves of its care, there should be no conflict:
“If the boundaries are clear from the start, patients wanting the option of VAD would have plenty of alternative hospital and nursing home options.”