Secularism and Medicine in Canada
by Jack Taylor
Dr. James Dobson, in his book Fatherless, envisions a society in 2040 where current Baby Boomers are pressured into transitioning out of life so that their wealth can be passed on to the next generations; expectant mothers undergo near mandatory screening of their unborn child to screen out potential burdens on society; even teens who are depressed or deficient in any way are encouraged to transition for the sake of society.
What Dobson envisions as future is closer in Canada than it appears. “Suffering children” are already being euthanized in some European countries and Canadian medical staff have now transitioned 3,714 individuals who average around 73 years of age. The number of assisted deaths, according to Statistics Canada records, has increased by 30% in the past six months. Almost half will die in their own homes.
The impact of secular humanism, individualism, materialism and utilitarianism in Canada has flooded into our professions so quickly that influential Christian leaders seem to have lost their voice. This is especially true in the medical field. 2400 years ago doctors began taking an oath to abhor killing but this oath seems to be losing its hold on the ethics of a sacred profession.
Physicians seem like they are being relegated to functioning at the whim of their patients under threat of litigation. Service on demand appears to be the new model. Bureaucrats call the shots, legislators set the moral boundaries, courts enforce the whim of the majority. Trends on abortion and medically assisted suicide are just two examples where the conscientious objection of medical professionals is being ignored.
Preston Manning, in a 2002 address delivered at the McGill University conference on “Pluralism, Religion and Public Policy”, stated that “people of faith – and there are millions of such people in Canada – need guidelines on how to bring faith perspectives to bear on public policy in a winsome rather than an offensive way. And public policy makers in our pluralistic society – many of whom regard faith perspectives with suspicion if not outright hostility – need to learn how to incorporate such perspectives into their deliberations rather than exclude them.”
Former president of Canadian Physicians for Life and the chair of the Euthanasia Prevention Coalition of British Columbia, Dr. Will Johnston, confirms that the materialistic and reductionistic world views of our society allow for some forms of spirituality as long as the secular religion is given control. He says that when it comes to abortion on demand, for example, “the hierarchy accepts the sacrifice of the unwanted unborn without question. The reason might be about the focus on absolute freedom for the individual, which is impossible unless you ignore other individuals like the baby.”
On the website consciencelaws.org Sean Murphy states that “Ethical differences between one theory of bioethics and another may be quite as dramatic as doctrinal differences between religions, though, like religions, there are also similarities. Problems for ethical minorities arise when one version of bioethics becomes predominant, and its practitioners attain positions of influence and power in government, academic and professional circles.” This is exactly what we see happening in Canada.
Doctors, nurses, anesthesiologists, hospice administrators, family members, pastors, social workers, counselors, lawyers, judges and many more professions are getting caught up in the sweep of what is happening as people look to medically assisted death as a viable option. The examples of the Hebrew midwives in Egypt, of Daniel and his friends in Babylon, and of the disciples before the Sanhedrin prompt us to “obey God rather than men” – but how does this work out in real life?
Catholic leaders see birth control and the sexual revolution as the foundational force behind the changes. Johnston says that “the failure rate of the birth control pill far exceeded the unmarried pregnancy rate before the pill was introduced. Unrestricted abortion became desperately necessary for the whole project. There used to be social disapproval of unmarried pregnancy because of its effect on the child and the cost to society of single motherhood. With the reduction of the chance of pregnancy per sexual act the promotion of sex as primarily recreational gained acceptance. On the other hand, the vast increase in unmarried sex guaranteed a huge increase in single motherhood and a huge disadvantage to women who want to marry in a society where men won’t commit.”
As the world population grew, dialogue turned to view child birth as a form of disease needing to be brought under control. Johnston reflects that “with the rejection of Christianity came a rejection, for many, of some sense of ultimate meaning and permanent existence. The focus is on control, or at least the illusion of it, and power.” He adds that “the uncritical acceptance of death as a way to solve life’s problems became common.”
Johnston says that “the same unreflective bureaucratic efficiency is happening with euthanasia. The bureaucrats have been galvanized by this issue in a way never applied to the neglected cause of palliative care…. Assumptions from materialistic humanism and utilitarianism have been accepted and any Christians who speak up against the flow put their advancement and possibly their career at risk.”
As far back as August 2012 Johnston was sounding the heads up as he drew attention to the Carter vs. Canada “Judge-decreed legalization of physician-assisted suicide and euthanasia in Canada.” Lee Carter, an 88 year old woman, was taken to Switzerland to die. In addition, Gloria Carter, a 64 year old ALS sufferer, drew public attention. Zealous ideologues had their anecdotal foot in the door of a society uncomfortable with pain and suffering.
Johnston’s point was that in 2008 a final plan had already been crafted by publicly funded euthanasia zealot Jocelyn Downie when she stated that “many individuals whose lives are no longer worth living… have not been diagnosed with a terminal illness. They may be suffering greatly and permanently but are not imminently dying. There is no principled basis for excluding them from assisted suicide.” Her principles are the catechism of secular materialism and follow naturally from the rejection of notions of people made in the image of God and life as sacred.
In 2016, Johnston wrote in his blog that “sadly, palliative care wards and hospices across Canada are, right now, in a hailstorm of administrative edicts to perform euthanasia inside their walls, in whispering range of those families and patients who had been promised a refuge of care.” He adds in an interview that “when you have people who have an unbalanced focus of life and you combine that with a horror of disability, some high-risk personality types can easily be convinced that they are more in control by orchestrating their own death… There is a delusional expectation of control at the end of life – that you will enhance your control over life by ceasing to exist.”
Several Christian doctors have chosen to retire rather than face having to refer a patient to someone else for medically assisted death. They also want to avoid conflict with their hospital administrations. Some don’t feel morally compromised through referral but Johnston feels this is short sighted.
Johnston concludes, “this isn’t only about doctors trying to keep their own integrity. The bigger story is the disenfranchisement of patients who don’t want to be caught in a system with exposure to pro euthanasia expectations and who want their doctor to be free to stay completely away from euthanasia… A Christian leader who accompanies congregants into suicide is problematic. Churches should be sympathetic to any suffering person but should counsel for hope. Christians should make strong statements that they don’t want palliative care hospices used for euthanasia.”
The medical, social and legislative community have no problems advocating for efficient care of able bodied persons with suicidal depression. It used to be a crime to kill people and offering suicide by doctor, because someone is physically, emotionally, psychologically or mentally disabled, is a dangerous path for our society. Johnston says the general public was gulled into allowing this takeover of the health care system because it was cloaked in the myth of untreatable terminal physical pain and presented as just another option in the palliative toolkit rather than a perversion of the most basic principles of care.
Now we have abortion on demand and are closing in on suicide on demand. The only demand not being heeded is the voice of Christian professionals conscientiously objecting and refusing to be part of the death culture. To assume that certain professionals function as soldiers without conscience, under the dictates of the state, is a notion designed to kill the very soul of a nation. It is tyranny, not democracy. It is time for the church to speak up on behalf of medical professionals everywhere.
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