Protection of Conscience Project to intervene in lawsuit against state medical regulator

News Release

For immediate release

Protection of Conscience Project

The Protection of Conscience Project has been granted joint intervener status in a constitutional challenge to policies of the College of Physicians and Surgeons of Ontario.

The Project is intervening jointly with the Catholic Civil Rights League (CCRL) and Faith and Freedom Alliance (FFA) in a lawsuit against the College launched by Ontario physicians and national physician organizations.

The joint intervention will defend freedom of conscience in the face of demands by the Ontario College of Physicians that physicians who refuse to kill patients or help them kill themselves must send them to a colleague willing do so.

“Unlike the CCRL and the FFA, the Project does not take a position on the acceptability of euthanasia or assisted suicide,” said Sean Murphy, Project Administrator.

“However, all three groups agree that those who object to the practices for moral, ethical or religious reasons should not be forced to provide or collaborate in them.”

The intervention will attempt to assist the court in defining a principled approach to the nature and scope of freedom of conscience.

Federal government policy a factor

The deliberate decision of the federal government to support coerced participation in homicide and suicide contributed to the Project’s decision to intervene.

“The federal government knew full well that the Ontario College was threatening to punish physicians who refuse to be parties to euthanasia and assisted suicide when it introduced Bill C-14 to set the groundrules for the procedures,” said Murphy.

“It could have prevented coercion by exercising its jurisdiction in criminal law. It could have made it a crime to force someone to be a party to homicide or suicide. It was repeatedly asked to do so. It steadfastly refused.”

Instead, Murphy said, “the Government of Canada chose to enable coercion, and to defend its support for coercion as ‘cooperative federalism.’”1

In contrast, the Project insists upon a foundational principle of democratic civility: that no one and no state institution may compel unwilling citizens to be parties to killing other people. Neither the state nor its agents nor others in positions of power and influence can legitimately order unwilling citizens to become parties to homicide and suicide, and punish them if they refuse.

The case is currently set for a hearing in mid-June.

Contact:
Sean Murphy, Administrator
Protection of Conscience Project
protection@consciencelaws.org


Notes

  1.  Minister of Justice Jody Wilson-Raybould, House of Commons Debates, Vol. 148, No. 055, 1st Session, 42nd Parliament, 13 May, 2016, p. 3312 (10:55)

Dr. Coelho’s ‘crazy’ battle for conscience rights

The Catholic Register

Michael Swan

It’s not surprising patients fall in love with Dr. Ramona Coelho. Not just because she’s a young, pretty doctor who smiles easily, laughs frequently and focuses her attention completely on whoever is talking to her.

Her patients in London, Ont., know that she’s a doctor who is in it for something more than the status, money or security attached to most medical practices.

“I love my work,” Coelho confesses. “I love being a doctor. I love helping people and being with them — trying to find solutions for them.”

Her practice is heavily slanted to marginalized patients. Her waiting room is full of refugees, ex-cons, the poor. Many of her patients are on permanent disability.

All that is at risk as the College of Physicians and Surgeons of Ontario mounts an ever more prickly defense of its “Professional Obligations and Human Rights Policy.” The policy is currently before the courts. It would force Ontario doctors to refer for abortions and for assisted suicide.  . . [Full text]

Catholic doctor fired for refusing to administer birth control. Court rules against her

LifeSite News

Natalia Dueholm

NOTODDEN, Norway, February 17, 2017 (LifeSiteNews) — Last week, a Norwegian court ruled against Katarzyna Jachimowicz, a Polish Catholic doctor fired for her unwillingness to insert intrauterine devices (IUDs).

The determined doctor decided in 2016 to fight for freedom based on conscience protections and tolerance for family doctors. However, on February 9, a district judge explained that the government has no desire to protect conscience in this case any further than absolutely necessary according to the European Convention on Human Rights. It simply prioritized the interest of women in accordance with “traditional Norwegian values.” The court found the discrimination against Catholic minorities in Norway irrelevant. . . [Full text]

Bill raises questions about delicate balance of doctor and patient rights near life’s end

CN Cronkite News

Arizona PBS

Saundra Wilson

PHOENIX – “Please don’t ask me to do that,” Dr. Paul Liu, a pediatric critical-care physician, said to grieving parents who had asked him to quietly end their child’s life.

Liu said he was frank with the parents, who wanted to put a stop to their sons’s suffering from a terminal illness. He advised them not to pursue an early death for their child because it’s not something they would want on their conscience.

“In their pain and suffering they wanted to end it much more quickly than natural courses would take,” said Liu, who recalled the story as he spoke in favor of Senate Bill 1439 at a Senate health and human services committee meeting this week. . . . [Full Text]

Pioneering Islamic scholar, defender of women coming to Fresno: ‘Islam, Christianity and Judaism share the same genome’

The Fresno Bee

Carmen George

An Islamic scholar who served as a consultant to the U.S. Department of Defense regarding Middle Eastern affairs and who helped draft Iraq’s constitution is this year’s Fresno Interfaith Scholar Weekend speaker.

“With what is going on in the world, we immediately decided it was an Islamic scholar that we needed – a great Islamic mind to share with us,” Jim Grant, chairman of the Fresno Interfaith Scholar Weekend Committee and director of the Social Justice Ministry for the Roman Catholic Diocese of Fresno, said about this year’s speaker, Abdulaziz Sachedina.

Sachedina is the International Institute of Islamic Thought chairman of Islamic Studies at George Mason University in Virginia. He will present a series of talks Friday through Feb. 26 at the Islamic Cultural Center of Fresno, Temple Beth Israel, Wesley United Methodist Church and Fresno City College centered around the theme, “Islam, Human Rights, and Interfaith Dialogue.” The annual event is sponsored by around 30 churches and organizations in the central San Joaquin Valley. . . [Full text]

Join the Call for Conscience Campaign February 6 – March 31, 2017

Coalition for HealthCARE and Conscience

Take Action – Join the Call for Conscience Campaign

February 6  to March 31, 2017

We need your help now to change policies in many provinces, most urgently in Ontario, where Bill 84 (Medical Assistance in Dying Statute Law Amendment Act) was introduced on December 7, 2016.

Hear from Our Doctors

Sign up to join the Call for Conscience today!

At least six Manitoba hospitals refuse to provide euthanasia, assisted suicide

Faith-based hospitals reject euthanasia

Winnipeg Free Press

Kristin Annable

At least six faith-based health-care facilities in Manitoba — including two Winnipeg hospitals — will not be providing medically assisted deaths to their patients or long-term care residences.

Officials from St. Boniface Hospital told the Free Press Monday patients seeking medical assistance in dying will have to go to another facility to have the service offered.

Other medical care facilities under the Catholic Health Corp. of Manitoba umbrella, including St. Joseph’s residence in northwest Winnipeg, Ste. Rose General Hospital near Dauphin, and Winnipegosis and District Health Centre will also follow suit, explained the corporation’s CEO, Daniel Lussier. . . [Full text]

Fostering Nurses’ Moral Agency and Moral Identity: The Importance of Moral Community

hastings-centerAbstract: It may be the case that the most challenging moral problem of the twenty-first century will be the relationship between the individual moral agent and the practices and institutions in which the moral agent is embedded. In this paper, we continue the efforts that one of us, Joan Liaschenko, first called for in 1993, that of using feminist ethics as a lens for viewing the relationship between individual nurses as moral agents and the highly complex institutions in which they do the work of nursing. Feminist ethics, with its emphasis on the inextricable relationship between ethics and politics, provides a useful lens to understand the work of nurses in context. Using Margaret Urban Walker’s and Hilde Lindemann’s concepts of identity, relationships, values, and moral agency, we argue that health care institutions can be moral communities and profoundly affect the work and identity and, therefore, the moral agency of all who work within those structures, including nurses. Nurses are not only shaped by these organizations but also have the power to shape them. Because moral agency is intimately connected to one’s identity, moral identity work is essential for nurses to exercise their moral agency and to foster moral community in health care organizations. We first provide a brief history of nursing’s morally problematic relationship with institutions and examine the impact institutional master narratives and corporatism exert today on nurses’ moral identities and agency. We close by emphasizing the significance of ongoing dialogue in creating and sustaining moral communities, repairing moral identities, and strengthening moral agency.

Liaschenko J, Peter E.  Fostering Nurses’ Moral Agency and Moral Identity: The Importance of Moral Community.  The Hastings Center Report, Volume 46, Issue S1, September/October 2016, Pages S18–S21.

 

Conscience and Conscientious Objection in Health Care

An ARC Discovery Project, running from 2015 to 2017

Summary of project

Conscientious objection is a central topic in bioethics and is becoming more ever important. This is hardly surprising if we consider the liberal trend in developments of policies about abortion and other bioethical issues worldwide. In recent decades the right to abortion has been granted by many countries, and increasingly many conservative and/or religious doctors are being asked to perform an activity that clashes with their deepest moral and/or religious values.

Debates about conscientious objection are set to become more intense given the increase in medical options which are becoming available or may well be available soon (e.g. embryonic stem cell therapies, genetic selection, human bio-enhancement, sex modification), and given the increasingly multicultural and multi-faith character of Australian society. Not only will doctors conscientiously object to abortion, and to practices commonly acknowledged as morally controversial, but some of them may also object to a wide range of new and even established practices that conflict with their personal values for example, Muslim doctors refusing to examine patients of the opposite sex.

Defining conscientious objection and identifying reliable markers for it, as well as setting the boundaries of legitimate conscientious objection through clear and justifiable principles, are difficult but pressing tasks.

This project advances bioethical debate by producing a philosophically and psychologically informed analysis of conscience, and by applying this to discussions about the legitimate limits to conscientious objection in health care.

 Personnel

Chief Investigator Dr Steve Clarke, Charles Sturt University

Chief Investigator Prof. Jeanette Kennett, Macquarie University

Partner Investigator Prof. Julian Savulescu, University of Oxford

[Full text]

On assisted suicide, let’s remember that doctors have rights too

Waterloo Region Record

Luisa D’Amato

Physicians are supposed to save lives, not hasten death.

So it’s not surprising that some doctors are having problems seeing how they fit into Canada’s new law that legalizes physician-assisted suicide for some patients.

It turns out that conscientious objectors like Sandra Brickell, a physician who works in Kitchener hospitals, are not protected.

“When somebody wants to end their life, it goes against what we’ve been trained to do,” she said at a meeting Friday with several other doctors, Kitchener-Conestoga MP Harold Albrecht and Kitchener-Conestoga MPP Michael Harris. . . [Full Text]