Another Adolescent Decision in a Time of Grown-Up Challenges

The Baby Boomers strike again.

This week, the Ontario Court of Appeal—the highest-level court in the country to consider a case of physicians’ freedom of religion—endorseda lower court’s ruling that all physicians must enable their patients to engage in abortion, assisted-death, or several other ethically questionable procedures. Physicians must either provide such procedures or give a direct referral to a physician or agency who will.

The Ontario Court recognized that the Charter of Rights and Freedoms acknowledges physicians’ right to refuse to serve as an accessory to what they view as a moral crime. But the three justices ruled that other principles took precedence over those rights.

What principles?

Equal access to legal medical procedures—which sounds fair enough, but more about that below. And also patients’ avoidance of “shame and stigma,” which sounds, well, oddly disproportionate when measured against physicians’ sincere concern not to assist in the killing of people under their care.

The legal experts have offered their arguments, and I found useful material here, provided by the Evangelical Fellowship of Canada, an intervener in the case. Let’s look at the decision here in the broad terms of cultural history.

Since the 1960s, Baby Boomers have enjoyed a kind of perpetual adolescence, and particularly a quest for maximal personal freedom and the extension of justice to those the Boomers deemed worthy of it. Genuine good has come from the resulting half-century’s campaign. In many respects, Canadian society cares for the poor, the disabled, the non-white, the female, the sexually different, and other marginalized groups better than we did before.

Along with that agenda, however, has come the adolescent tendency toward simple, even binary, views. That trait is perfectly understandable in young people just getting acquainted with the adult world. But so many Boomers, well into their senior years now, seem never to have jettisoned such an outlook.

Thus the Ontario Court’s decision is phrased in terms of the most pitiable cases: patients who don’t speak English, who have little education, who lack mental health, or who otherwise cannot easily navigate the complexities of our current medical systems. This all sounds commendably compassionate—except when one pauses to consider that it isn’t the physicians’ fault that health care is being delivered in such a complicated fashion.

It isn’t the physicians’ fault that people who want a single, clear thing done—terminate the life of one’s fetus, terminate one’s own life—apparently need the help of a person with years of university education just to find someone who will do it.

Indeed, in the internet age, how hard can it be to locate a list of people to do a particular thing—particularly if, as the Court heard from those who want to coerce physicians into compliance, it is so very important that people get what they want as quickly as possible? Why can’t there be a single website and phone number?

[For the rest, please click HERE.]

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