March 8, 2016 / 4:38 AM / 4 years ago

Canada Catholic head: 'Unjust' to force doctors on assisted suicide

New Cardinal Thomas Christopher Collins of Canada participates in a consistory mass in St Peter's Basilica at the Vatican in this February 19, 2012 file photo. REUTERS/Tony Gentile/Files

TORONTO (Reuters) - The head of Canada’s biggest Catholic group opposed the country’s pending doctor-assisted suicide legislation in a statement to be read at 225 Toronto churches on Sunday, saying it was “unjust” to force doctors to act against their conscience.

“It is unjust to force people to act against their conscience in order to be allowed to practice as a physician,” Cardinal Thomas Collins, head of the Roman Catholic Archdiocese of Toronto, said in the text of his statement.

Canada’s Supreme Court struck down a ban on assisted suicide in 2015 and gave lawmakers a year to come up with legislation to regulate the practice.

The newly elected Liberal government was given a four-month extension this year to a develop a national law for the practice, under which doctors opposed to assisted suicide have to recommend someone willing to perform it.

Collins who is expected to deliver his statement personally during mass at St. Paul’s Basilica, home to Toronto’s oldest Catholic congregation, said while assisted suicide is “never justified,” those with terminal illnesses could refuse treatment.

Collins also criticized what he says is the broadness of the proposed law, which offers assisted suicide to minors and those with psychiatric conditions.   

The French-speaking province of Quebec had already put its own law into effect in December. Since the change in provincial law on Dec. 10, at least one person carried out an assisted suicide in Quebec City.

Polls show physician-assisted suicide has broad support but the issue has divided politicians in Parliament as they grapple with how to protect vulnerable Canadians while respecting their rights and choices at the end of life.

Reporting by Ethan Lou; Editing by Jeffrey Benkoe

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