Tag Archives: Hippocratic Oath

The Hippocratic Oath

by Paul T

Doctors can often be the most influential figures for women who are confused and nervous about their unplanned pregnancy. Women see doctors as healers, role models, even important figures when they have no one else to turn to. These doctors, however, even under the Hippocratic oath, are often keen to suggest abortion as the first and only option for the woman seeking help. I seem to remember and quote one of the most important lines in the Hippocratic oath:

Similarly I will not give to a woman an abortive remedy. In purity and holiness I will guard my life and my art.

It seems to me this part of the oath remains as true to the doctor’s role now as it ever did. Isn’t the doctor the one who heals? The one who cures? The one who cares for patients? Let’s remember that pregnancy is not a disease, it is the natural reproductive cycle of the human species. Thus, terminating it is not curing anything. It’s not healing anything either, nor is it caring for the patients, the woman and child.

The doctor plays an essential role in the lives of men, women, and children, and his Hippocratic oath is explicit in its defence of life in all instances. The doctor’s role of curing, and healing, and protecting life can be no more evident in the role of delivery at childbirth. The doctor’s role of delivering the unborn child and handing it to the mother is a much different picture than that of the “doctor” who aspirates the unborn child into a machine, or dismembers it within the mother’s womb. It is up to us, as a just and responsible society, to stand up for the giving of life in all circumstances, and not to be turning a blind eye to “doctors” who recommend and perform the spilling of innocent blood.

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Bill C-384 Vote Today

by Garnet

Our elected Members of Parliament will vote this evening on Bill C-384, the “Right to Die with Dignity” bill proposed by Bloq MP Francine Lalonde.  This vote will decide whether the bill is suitable to move to the next stage in Parliamentary procedure: the committee stage.  Five or six of us were in the House of Commons yesterday to hear the final debate on this bill during Private Members’ Hour.  Here are a few reflections.

The house was a lot emptier than I expected it to be.  Very few cabinet ministers attended the debate, but we did see two of our pro-life heroes MPs Brad Trost and Maurice Vellacott.  After a discussion about representation by population (or something) was finished, the speaker of the house was asked to recognize that the clock was at 5:30 p.m., which meant the Private Members’ Hour was to begin.

Liberal MP Mauril Belanger from Ottawa-Vanier spoke first. He called for more dialogue on the issue, and will vote in favour of the bill going to the committee stage.  He also called for clearer definitions of terms like euthanasia, assisted suicide and “dying with dignity”.

Next was NDP MP Bill Siksay from Burnaby, BC.  He pledged his support for the bill, insisting that the right to die would not turn into the duty to die.  He is committed to providing choice for those that wish to end their lives.

Bloq MP Nicole Demers from Laval, QC also spoke about providing choice.  She said,

As long as one has a life to live and wants to live it, life should go on. However, when an individual can no longer endure the pain they are suffering, I want them to have choices.

MP Nicole Demers

After hearing just about enough choice rhetoric, Conservative MP Tim Uppal from Edmonton spoke with the voice of truth.  He is opposed to the bill and does not believe that doctors should be given the authority to end a life.  I was waiting for him to mention the Hippocratic Oath, but he didn’t.  He also expressed concerns with the bill itself, saying the scope was much too broad, and the safeguards for informed consent were not sufficient.

Liberal MP Mike Savage from Dartmouth, NS, spoke next.  He told an emotional story about his parents, who both died of cancer six weeks apart. Even though his parents suffered, he said, they were still able to be in control of their lives until the end.  I liked his emphasis on palliative care:

Let us focus on palliative care and home care. Let us provide the supports that people need in their time of need. Let us be very mindful of people with disabilities, particularly people who are not always able to make decisions on their own and who rely upon others for support, guidance and the everyday aspects of their lives.

MP Mike Savage

NDP MP Jim Maloway from Winnipeg, MB also spoke against the bill.

I am concerned about the point made by some members that if we were to adopt this measure, it would cut back the impetus to improve palliative care. As long as assisted suicide is illegal, the pressure will still be on governments and jurisdictions to develop palliative care as quickly as possible. If we passed legislation like this bill, then the pressure would be off.

MP Jim Maloway

He also expressed concerns with the way the issue has developed in Holland, where the minister who introduced the euthanasia bill to the Dutch Parliament has since changed her mind.  He advocated for increased support for palliative care programs.

The last MP to speak before Ms Lalonde had the floor to respond was NDP MP Charlie Angus from Timmins, ON.  He also opposes the bill.  He also advocated for increased support for palliative care.

It is possible to treat people with dignity right through the final moments. However, that has to be a decision we make as a society and a commitment we make to each other that we will be there as a society, we will be there with the medical system, we will be there as family and we will be there as a community.

MP Charlie Angus

Then Francine Lalonde had an opportunity to respond.  She spoke quite passionately about the issue.  For Lalonde, someone who has fought cancer herself, this issue is somewhat personal.  She concluded with this:

I can tell you that when I wrote that [newspaper article in 2005], I did not know what unbearable pain was. Now I do and I have learned that medicine, with all its progress, can only provide help with side effects such as hallucinations or other terrible effects to the body. We have to have the right to choose. I am speaking on behalf of the vulnerable. They are the ones who need this type of legislation the most because only this type of legislation will allow them to be the people they choose to be. There are currently many places where people can die and with all the instruments available to doctors, it is possible to help people die without them having to ask.

MP Francine Lalonde

It is the vulnerable that have the most to fear if this bill passes. As is seen in European countries who have legalized euthanasia, the “right to die” can easily become “the duty to die” and “the expectation to die”.  This is symptomatic of a devaluing of human life.  I hope this is not happening in Canada, but so much of what I hear and see tells me it is happening.

Dr. Catherine Ferrier in a letter to the editor in the National Post yesterday says it best.

. . . the slippery slope has definitely materialized in jurisdictions where euthanasia is legal. In the Netherlands, euthanasia is administered routinely to patients who are not terminally ill but rather have chronic diseases or psychological distress; to patients who are incapable of consenting or who are capable but were not consulted; and to children, including newborns. Dying with dignity should indeed be a right for all Canadians, but Ms. Lalonde’s proposal of allowing doctors to kill patients is the worst possible way of reaching this goal.

Dr. Catherine Ferrier

We will be going back to the House this evening to witness the vote.  I hope our politicians will have the courage to stand up for the dignity of human life and oppose this bill.

*quotes taken from a transcript of the debate on OpenParliament.ca.

It’s about people.

by Theresa Stephenson

Every week I go to the lecture for my mandatory course, Philosophical Issues in Health Care. Every week we discuss various moral dilemmas that confront workers in the medical system. And every week I sit in the lecture hall with other nursing and health science students and discuss medical practices in abstract, theoretical terms: we argue about moral “rights” and “wrongs” and apply these convictions to real-life case studies.

Every week I leave that class rattled and surprised at what my peers have said. We wrestle with topics like euthanasia, the allocation of medical treatment, and neonatal testing. I am floored by the radical arguments that people come up with. In class we often forget that the case studies we mull over are actually real cases, presenting us with real people and real problems. We over-analyze scenarios; we harshly, and often wrongly, judge people’s quality of life. Even though we speak with the best intentions, we get so carried away that we’re more wrapped up in the philosophical arguments than the real, living patients that we will soon be treating.

When we get caught up in philosophical theories we forget what’s actually important – the humanity of our patients.

I have no interest in being a philosopher. Neither Mill’s utilitarianism nor Kant’s ethics serve as my moral compass. Instead, my treatment of patients is/will be guided by their humanity. Only by acknowledging the humanity of each patient can we compassionately serve him or her with integrity and fidelity.

At times, when I listen to my peers talk about human life I fear the future of Canadian health care. I hope that when we arrive in the hospital, fresh out of university, we will know how to justly deal with morally perplexing situations. But if not, if we panic, I hope that we remember the inherent dignity of each human life. Difficult cases are a reality in every hospital in Canada. Human life is in the hands of medical providers: I hope that they will choose treatment over termination and life over death.

Right to die?

by Theresa Stephenson

Here in Canada, euthanasia is on the forefront of bioethical dispute. Bill C-384, which will soon go through its second debate in the House of Commons, seeks to legalize euthanasia and physician-assisted suicide. “Active euthanasia” is the intentional premature termination of another person’s life by direct intervention.

We live in a time when medical treatments are advanced, and we have the ability to provide pain relief to enhance the quality of life for patients. Palliative care provides a comfortable end of life experience for those who are nearing death. Rehabilitation centres prove to be effective alternatives to help disabled patients recuperate. Euthanasia, however, offers doctors another option; instead of treatment, they have the power to give a lethal injection that ends the patient’s life.

The Hippocratic Oath provides basic moral rules for doctors to guide their actions. The first mandate is a clear prohibition of killing their patients. The laws against euthanasia, which are currently in place, are there to prevent an abuse of power; mandating doctors to provide health care and not executions.

We’re being constantly bombarded with rhetoric of a “right to die”.   Does this translate to a “right to kill”? Doctors are given the power to administer a death sentence to those who have no “quality of life”. This leads to the victimization of those with an illness, be it physical or mental. Indeed, a “slippery slope” exists in the euthanasia debate, where the inalienable right to life is denied especially to vulnerable groups.

The act of euthanasia itself devalues human life.  People’s lives should not be judged as “worth living” or not, but instead must be treated with respect and dignity — from conception to natural death.