Half of British Columbians strongly oppose granting "conscientious objections" to healthcare institutions

A new poll has found that 71% of British Columbians do not support publicly-funded healthcare institutions being able to refuse to provide services like physician-assisted dying or abortion on religious grounds. A majority – 52% – are strongly opposed.

A number of healthcare institutions operated by religious groups, including Providence Healthcare in Vancouver and St Joseph’s General Hospital in Comox, have said that they would not provide medical assistance in dying, which became legal in Canada on June 6.

The poll was commissioned by the BC Humanist Association and conducted by Insights West. The BC Humanists have said that religious opposition by healthcare institutions threatens access to medical assistance in dying. The group has calculated that nearly $1 billion in public funding went to healthcare institutions operated by religious organizations in BC in 2015.

The findings of the poll are in stark contrast to comments by BC Health Minister Terry Lake who in February suggested that “faith-based organizations” would merely be required to “provide responsible transfer of care for a patient.”

Ian Bushfield, Executive Director of the BC Humanist Association:

Bricks and mortar don’t have consciences. When tax dollars are used to support a religious hospital, that hospital needs to be open to everyone and must provide health services without discrimination. As of June 6, that includes providing medical assistance in dying for those in suffering.

Dr Jonathan Reggler, a family physician associated with St Joseph’s General Hospital in Comox:

As a family physician I believe it is unethical and immoral to require ill patients to be sent home from hospital for medical assistance in dying if they are too sick to be looked after in their home even for a few hours; it is no better to send them miles and miles away to hospitals where their families do not live and where their physicians cannot provide that final compassionate service.

We should also remember that most of the patients and staff of religious foundations do not share the same faith as the owners of these institutions or perhaps hold any religious faith at all. St Joseph’s has banned MAID despite the fact that only 12% of the population it serves is Catholic and 80% of Catholics actually support MAID. A bishop, a few hard-core followers and a Church that owns some bricks and mortar are denying Canadians who want it their right to a dignified end.

Dr Sue Hughson, Dying With Dignity Canada Board Member and Vancouver Chapter Coordinator:

Publicly funded hospitals, hospices and long-term care facilities have a responsibility to offer a full range of compassionate care options to British Columbians at end of life. Refusing to do so represents a violation of their duty to serve the public. Forcing dying patients to leave their places of residence, their healthcare teams and, in some cases, their home communities in order to access their right to a peaceful death is unethical, impractical, and offside with the views of the vast majority of British Columbians.

Dying With Dignity Canada will continue to advocate for access to this new right and build networks of support and information across the country.

Joyce Arthur, Executive Director of the Abortion Rights Coalition of Canada:

We've already seen the barriers to access that religious healthcare institutions create. Almost all of these institutions refuse to provide abortions and many fail to provide other basic reproductive health services like sterilization and emergency contraception. The prevalence of Catholic hospitals in Canada greatly worsens access to reproductive healthcare, and yet the public supports robust and equitable access to legal medical services.

A 2006 study showed that abortion services are available at fewer than one in six hospitals across Canada (29% of hospitals in BC).

These results are the first release from a larger religious and secular attitudes survey that the BC Humanist Association commissioned Insights West to conduct. More results will be released later in June.

Results are based on online interviews with a representative sample of 802 British Columbia adults from May 31 to June 3, 2016. The margin of error is ± 3.5%.


Do you support or oppose religious health care institutions that receive government funds being able to refuse to provide certain healthcare services (e.g. physician-assisted dying, abortion) on religious grounds? Choose one.

 

British Columbia

Gender

Age

Female

Male

18-34

35-54

55+

Strongly support

11%

12%

8%

11%

11%

10%

Somewhat support

12%

12%

12%

18%

11%

8%

Somewhat oppose

19%

19%

19%

22%

17%

19%

Strongly oppose

52%

49%

56%

43%

54%

55%

Not sure

7%

9%

4%

5%

8%

8%

 

 

British Columbia

Region

Metro Vancouver

Fraser Valley

Northern BC

Southern BC

Vancouver Island

Strongly support

11%

8%

13%

29%

15%

7%

Somewhat support

12%

12%

11%

6%

19%

6%

Somewhat oppose

19%

20%

27%

11%

17%

16%

Strongly oppose

52%

53%

40%

37%

44%

67%

Not sure

7%

7%

9%

17%

5%

5%

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