Canadian Catholic Hospital Hires Euthanasia Advocate

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by Bruce Walker  •  ChurchMilitant.com  •  May 7, 2019   

Hires assisted suicide practitioner for palliative care unit

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In the book and subsequent Showtime series of the same name, Dexter was a blood-splatter expert for the Miami police department homicide division who spent his evenings as a serial killer.

The fictional character is an antecedent for Canadian James Downar, the real-life doctor who gained notoriety as an advocate of legalized euthanasia in Canada as well as participates in medical assistance in dying, euphemistically abbreviated as MAiD.

Like Dexter, however, Downar leads a double life; since October 2018, he has served as the head of palliative care at the University of Ottawa, in which capacity he divides his clinical time between the intensive care services of Ottawa General Hospital and the palliative care unit at St. Elisabeth Bruyère Hospital, the province's first hospital, founded in 1845 by the Sisters of Charity of Ottawa. He also conducts research at the Bruyère Research Institute.


"Downar's appointment to a Catholic facility, with the apparent approval of the bishop is disgraceful and seriously problematic for two reasons," said Jack Fonseca, spokesperson for the Campaign Life Coalition in Kitchener, Ontario.

"First, it's a scandal which sends the message to the broader Catholic community that advocating for and even committing euthanasia killings is not such a big deal," he said. "Secondly, Downar's presence in the hospital will make it very difficult for Elizabeth Bruyère to avoid material cooperation with evil in the future."

Fonseca continued: "When the secular pressures to more openly accommodate euthanasia continue to come in the future, Downar will be there, pouring pestilence in the ear of every Catholic, urging them to go along with the secular demands."

Fonseca noted that Downar is a former chair of the Physician Advisory Committee of Dying with Dignity Canada, where he is still a member. An exposé on LifeSiteNews states Downar "performs assisted deaths, supports the harvesting of organs of euthanized individuals, was a paid consultant on the Canadian Medical Association course on 'Medical Aid in Dying,' and advocates that euthanasia be part of palliative care."

The same article asserts Downar's appointment was by unanimous consent of all parties involved, including the management at St. Elisabeth Bruyère Hospital.

Canadian Catholic hospitals adopted secret guidelines allowing onsite euthanasia consultations for palliative care patients.

Many Canadian Catholics protested a champion of the widespread practice of MAiD being appointed to an upper management position at a Catholic institution. According to the Catechism of the Roman Catholic Church, the practice of euthanasia is "morally unacceptable."

The Catechism also states:

Even if death is thought imminent, the ordinary care owed to a sick person cannot be legitimately interrupted. The use of painkillers to alleviate the sufferings of the dying, even at the risk of shortening their days, can be morally in conformity with human dignity if death is not willed as either an end or a means, but only foreseen and tolerated as inevitable Palliative care is a special form of disinterested charity. As such it should be encouraged.

Despite the Catholic Church's explicit teachings against MAiD, however, Canada legalized the practice in 2016. While Catholic health institutions continue to refuse accommodation of MAiD procedures onsite, news broke late last month that Canadian Catholic hospitals had adopted secret guidelines allowing euthanasia consultations for palliative care patients. These consultations allow a third-party to administer MAiD to patients.

"This demonstrates that our Catholic leaders have become too comfortable with accommodating the sins pushed by our secular culture," said Fonseca. "When sin brushes up against their skin, they no longer recoil in horror as they should.  It is too familiar. This point is driven home by the recent revelation that Canada's bishops have been allowing third-party euthanasia assessments of medically frail patients in Catholic health care facilities." 

The Canadian Broadcasting Corporation (CBC) reported Downar is "one of just six physicians in Toronto registered to provide medical aid in dying. There are 74 in all of Ontario."

In a July 2017 CBC article, Downar openly advocated for a more "robust" structure by which doctors could assist their patients in the act of committing suicide. He complained that Canada's nationalized health care didn't provide physicians with fee codes for billing euthanasia services and administrative costs.

It's a human tragedy and a crisis.

A study released in late April by Health Canada revealed that more than 2,613 Canadian deaths in 2018 were attributable to euthanasia, representing 1.12% of all deaths in the country that year.

All but one of these deaths resulted from a medical professional administering the lethal dose — the single exception self-administered the dose. The Health Canada study reported Quebec's euthanasia numbers (1,664) separately from the number referenced above due to differences in the reporting mechanisms employed by different Canadian provinces.

"Canadians are choosing lethal injection deaths in alarming numbers," said Fonseca, adding:

At 1.12%, it is projected that more than 3,000 Canadians chose to be killed by a doctor in 2018. That's an immense loss of life. It's a human tragedy and a crisis. That works out to more than 250 euthanasia killings per month, 58 per week, and 8 per day.

He said, "We're already experiencing a suicide contagion in Canada, and the law was only passed in 2016. It probably won't take long for Canada to become like the Netherlands where euthanasia deaths now account for 4% of all deaths."

By comparison, if 1.12% of the total 2017 deaths in the United States (2.8 million) were tallied, the number of assisted suicides would be just under 30,000. Thus far, eight U.S. states allow some form of legalized euthanasia.

"We need our spiritual leaders to begin preaching boldy and constantly against the evils of euthanasia," Fonseca said. "And that preaching must not be only in word, but also in deed, beginning with demanding the removal of Downar from the Catholic hospital, and rescinding this terrible policy of allowing third-party euthanasia assessments in Catholic health care facilities." 

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