Saskatchewan physicians to be forced to participate in killing their patients

For Immediate Release

Maurice Vellacott, MP Saskatoon-Wanuskewin

OTTAWA – “The assault on freedom of conscience that is spreading across our country ought to be of grave concern to every freedom-loving Canadian ,” MP Maurice Vellacott said upon learning of yet another province (this time his own) that plans to force physicians to participate in morally objectionable procedures, including those that kill. “No health care worker should be forced against their will to take part in the killing of another human being. It would be a grotesque violation of their human dignity.”

The College of Physicians and Surgeons of Saskatchewan (CPSS) has adopted in principle a policy[i]  which it basically “cut and paste” from the Conscience Research Group’s (CRG’s) Model Policy on Conscientious Objection in Medicine.[ii]

Mr. Vellcott asked a series of questions that paint a disturbing picture of the process, or lack thereof, that went into CPSS’s adoption of this objectionable policy:

“Was the CPSS aware that the drafters of the Model Policy, notably Professor Jocelyn Downie of Dalhousie University, are abortion and euthanasia activists?

Did the CPSS solicit input from anyone other than Professor Downie and her team at the CRG[iii] before adopting this policy?

Did the Saskatchewan College let on to anyone else that it was even considering this issue?

Is the CPSS aware that this policy was rejected by the Canadian Medical Association (CMA)?”

Mr. Vellacott explained: “Professor Downie and co-author Sanda Rodgers, in a 2006 guest editorial in the CMA Journal, ignited a firestorm of controversy when they falsely claimed that CMA policy requires physicians to make abortion referrals regardless of their conscientious/religious beliefs. As Sean Murphy, Administrator of the Protection of Conscience Project, points out in his recent news release, that claim was repudiated by the CMA and vehemently rejected by physicians. And partly as a result of that negative response, Professor Downie turned her attention to the regulatory Colleges to try to convince them to impose mandatory referral.”[iv]

Earlier this month, Mr. Vellacott spoke out against a similar draft policy of the College of Physicians and Surgeons of Ontario (CPSO). At that time, he expressed concerns that if the Supreme Court of Canada strikes down Canada’s current ban on euthanasia or assisted suicide, then CPSO’s policy would mean Ontario’s physicians would have a ‘duty to refer’ patients for these life-ending procedures. He stressed that no other jurisdiction that currently allows euthanasia or assisted suicide imposes such an obligation. [v]

“While the CPSO policy is not identical to the CPSS/CRG Model Policy, in principle it is the same—a coercive attempt to involve physicians in the killing of some of the most vulnerable members of our human family,” Mr. Vellacott said. “The sheer fact that these Colleges of Physicians and Surgeons feel that a coercive policy of referral for these controversial procedures is necessary, is itself testament to the fact that there is something inherently problematic about these procedures in the first place. If they were procedures just like any other medical procedure, there’d be no need to coerce physicians into sacrificing a fundamental part of who they are—their very consciences—in order to provide them.”

“No good can come from forcing a doctor to practice medicine in a way they find morally reprehensible. Killing the consciences of our medical doctors will cause inestimable harm to the people of Canada and society as a whole.”

“One cannot help but wonder, what is the real motivation of those pushing us down this dangerous path?  And will we have the courage and wisdom and foresight to stop it?”

For information on providing input to CPSS on its draft policy, visit: http://www.cps.sk.ca/CPSS/CouncilAndCommittees/Council_Consultations_and_Surveys.aspx

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 For further information and comment, call (613) 992-1966 or (613) 297-2249; email: maurice.vellacott.a1@parl.gc.ca

[i] The College of Physicians and Surgeons of Saskatchewan (CPSS) is currently seeking input on a conscientious objection policy dubbed “Conscientious Refusal,”  which it has adopted in principle. This policy would require physicians who object to providing certain “legally permissible and publicly-funded health services” to “make a timely referral to another health care provider who is willing and able to accept the patient and provide the service.” In cases where the patient’s “health or well-being” would be jeopardized by a delay in finding another physician, the physician would be forced to provide the service even when it “conflicts with physicians’ deeply held and considered moral or religious beliefs.” See: http://www.cps.sk.ca/Documents/Council/2015%201%2019%20Conscientious%20Objection%20policy%20approved%20in%20principle%20by%20Council.pdf

[ii] http://carolynmcleod.com/wp-content/uploads/2014/05/04_Downie-McLeod-Shaw.pdf

[iii] http://conscience.carolynmcleod.com/meet-the-team/

[iv] “Saskatchewan physicians to be forced to do what they believe to be wrong,” Protection of Conscience Project news release, Jan. 27, 2015

[v] See Jan. 8, 2015 news release  and Backgrounder.

Saskatchewan physicians to be forced to do what they believe to be wrong

Policy wording supplied by abortion and euthanasia activists

Policy would apply to euthanasia, if legalized.

Protection of Conscience Project News Release

The College of Physicians and Surgeons of Saskatchewan proposing a draft policy demanding that physicians who object to “legally permissible and publicly-funded health services” must direct patients to colleagues who will provide them.  If another physician is unavailable, the College demands that they provide “legally permissible and publicly-funded” services,  even if doing so “conflicts with physicians’ deeply held and considered moral or religious beliefs.”

Physicians usually refuse to participate in abortion because they believe it is wrong to kill what the criminal law refers to as a child that has not become a human being.1 The proposed policy will require them to find a physician willing to do the killing they won’t do.  Should the Supreme Court of Canada legalize euthanasia, the policy will require objecting physicians who refuse to kill patients to find someone who will.

The seamless fit between referral for abortion and referral for euthanasia is not surprising.  The draft College policy was largely written by abortion and euthanasia activists, notably Professor Jocelyn Downie of Dalhousie University.

In a 2006 guest editorial in the Canadian Medical Association Journal, Professor Downie and another law professor claimed that objecting physicians are obliged to refer patients for abortion.2  Their views were vehemently rejected by physicians and repudiated by the Canadian Medical Association.3  Partly as a result of the negative response, Professor Downie and her colleagues in the “Conscience Research Group” decided to convince Colleges of Physicians and Surgeons to impose it.4

Saskatchewan’s draft policy is taken almost verbatim from their “Model Conscientious Objection Policy.”

The Conscience Research Group is  a tax-funded initiative that includes Professors Downie and Daniel Weinstock.5   Both  were members of an “expert panel” that recommended that health care professionals who object to killing patients should be compelled to refer patients to someone who would,6 because (they claimed) it is agreed that they can be compelled to refer for “reproductive health services.”7

Current efforts by the College of Physicians and Surgeons of Ontario to suppress freedom of conscience in the medical profession may have been influenced by the Conscience Research Group.  However, the College in Saskatchewan is the first to copy and paste its preferred model into a draft policy.

The Project insists that it is incoherent and contrary to sound public policy to include a requirement to do what one believes to be wrong in a professional code of ethics. It is also an affront to the best traditions of liberal democracy, and, ultimately, dangerous.

The College Council has approved the policy in principle, but will accept feedback on it until 6 March, 2015.


Notes:

1.  Criminal Code, Section 238(1). (Accessed 2014-12-02)

2. Rodgers S. Downie J. “Abortion: Ensuring Access.” CMAJ July 4, 2006 vol. 175 no. 1 doi: 10.1503/cmaj.060548 (Accessed 2014-12-02).

3.  Blackmer J. Clarification of the CMA’s position on induced abortion. CMAJ April 24, 2007 vol. 176 no. 9 doi: 10.1503/cmaj.1070035 (Accessed 2014-02-22)

4.   McLeod C, Downie J. “Let Conscience Be Their Guide? Conscientious Refusals in Health Care.” Bioethics ISSN 0269-9702 (print); 1467-8519 (online) doi:10.1111/bioe.12075 Volume 28 Number 1 2014 pp ii–iv

5.   Let their conscience be their guide? Conscientious refusals in reproductive health care: Meet the team.(Accessed 2014-11-21)

6.  Schuklenk U, van Delden J.J.M, Downie J, McLean S, Upshur R, Weinstock D. Report of the Royal Society of Canada Expert Panel on End-of-Life Decision Making (November, 2011) p. 101 (Accessed 2014-02-23)

7.   Schuklenk U, van Delden J.J.M, Downie J, McLean S, Upshur R, Weinstock D. Report of the Royal Society of Canada Expert Panel on End-of-Life Decision Making (November, 2011) p. 62 (Accessed 2014-02-23)

A modest proposal for respecting physicians’ freedom of conscience

National Post

Margaret Somerville

The Ontario College of Physicians and Surgeons is consulting on whether patients’ right of access to certain procedures, such as abortion, should trump the rights of those physicians who refuse, for reasons of conscience, to provide them. Dr. Marc Gabel, a College official, chairs the working group looking at this issue, which is drafting a new policy on “Professional Obligations and Human Rights.”

Dr. Gabel has been reported as saying that “physicians unwilling to provide or facilitate abortion for reasons of conscience should not be family physicians” and it seems wants the College to approve that stance. Sean Murphy, of the Protection of Conscience Project, argues that “if it does, ethical cleansing of Ontario’s medical profession will begin this year, ridding it of practitioners unwilling to do what they believe to be wrong.”

Freedom of conscience, like the other fundamental freedoms enshrined in the Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedoms, is a fundamental pillar of democracy. So how could breaching this right be, as Dr Gabel claims, “required by professional practice and human rights legislation”? . . . [Full text]

 

Access – or ethical cleansing?

Sean Murphy*

Despite a warning from the Ontario Medical Association that the quality of health care will suffer if people who refuse compromise their moral or ethical beliefs are driven from medical practice,1 the College of Physicians and Surgeons of Ontario plans to introduce a policy this year that will have that effect.2 The College is concerned that too many Ontario doctors are refusing to do what they believe to be wrong.

Ontario physicians may have more to say about this, since no other profession imposes an obligation to do what one believes to be wrong as a condition of membership. Indeed, it is extremely improbable that such a requirement can be found in the constitution of any occupational or community organization in this country – or any country.

On a more practical note, if the Supreme Court of Canada decides to legalize euthanasia and physician assisted suicide, the policies on human rights and end of life care that the College plans to enact this year will require physicians to kill patients or help them commit suicide, or direct them to someone who will: in the words of the draft policy, to make “an effective referral . . . to a non-objecting, available, and accessible physician or other health-care provider.”3

An undetermined number of physicians who don’t want to kill patients or assist with suicide themselves may, in fact, be willing to do this. But many physicians will not be willing to provide “an effective referral” because, in their view, to do that is morally equivalent to doing the killing themselves. In the words of the President of Quebec’s Collège des médecins, “[I]f you have a conscientious objection and it is you who must undertake to find someone who will do it, at this time, your conscientious objection is [nullified]. It is as if you did it anyway.”4

Physicians who think like this are the targets of the policy developed by Dr. Marc Gabel and his working group at the Ontario College of Physicians. Physicians who think like this, according to Dr. Gabel, should not be in family practice. He was not, of course, talking about euthanasia or assisted suicide. He was talking about abortion.

But the issue is exactly the same. Any number of physicians may agree to referral for abortion because they believe that referral relieves them of a moral burden or of a task they find disturbing or distasteful. However, for others, as Holly Fernandez-Lynch has observed, referral imposes “the serious moral burdens of complicity.”5 They refuse to refer for abortion because they do not wish to be morally complicit in killing a child, even if (to use the terminology of the criminal law) it is, legally speaking, “a child that has not become a human being.”6

Just as some physicians believe it is wrong to facilitate killing before birth by referring patients for abortion, they and other physicians believe it is wrong to facilitate killing after birth by referring patients for euthanasia or assisted suicide. Activists like Professors Jocelyn Downie and Daniel Weinstock disagree.

Both are members of the “Conscience Research Group.”7 The Group intends to entrench in medical practice a duty to refer for or otherwise facilitate contraception, abortion and other “reproductive health” services. Both were members of an “expert panel” that recommended that health care professionals who object to killing patients should be compelled to refer patients to someone who would,8 because (they claimed) it is agreed that they can be compelled to refer for “reproductive health services.”9

From the perspective of many objecting physicians, this amounts to imposing a duty to do what they believe to be wrong. But that is just what the Conscience Research Group asserts: that the state or a profession can impose upon physicians a duty to do what they believe to be wrong – even if it is killing someone – even if they believe it to be murder. And Dr. Gabel and his working group agree.

To make that claim is extraordinary, and extraordinarily dangerous. For if the state or a profession can require me to kill someone else – even if I am convinced that doing so is murder – what can it not require?

If the College’s real goal is to ensure access to services – not to punish objecting physicians – that goal is best served by connecting patients with physicians willing to help them. If the real goal is to ensure access – not ethical cleansing – there is no reason to demand that physicians do what they believe to be wrong.


Notes

1. Letter to the College of Physicians and Surgeons of Ontario from the Ontario Medical Association Section on General and Family Practice Re: Human Rights Code Policy, 6 August, 2014. (Accessed 2015-01-11)

2. College of Physicians and Surgeons of Ontario, “Professional Obligations and Human Rights (Draft)” (Accessed 2015-01-11)

3.  College of Physicians and Surgeons of Ontario, “Professional Obligations and Human Rights (Draft),” lines 156-160. (Accessed 2015-01-11)

4. “Parce que, si on a une objection de conscience puis c’est nous qui doive faire la démarche pour trouver la personne qui va le faire, à ce moment-là , notre objection de conscience ne s’applique plus.” Consultations, Tuesday 17 September 2013 – Vol. 43 no. 34: Collège des médecins du Québec, (Dr. Charles Bernard, Dr. Yves Robert, Dr. Michelle Marchand) T#154

5.  Fernandez-Lynch, Holly, Conflicts of Conscience in Health Care: An Institutional Compromise. Cambridge, Mass.: The MIT Press, 2008, p. 229.

6.  Criminal Code, Section 238(1). (Accessed 2015-01-12).

7.  Let their conscience be their guide? Conscientious refusals in reproductive health care. (Accessed 2014-11-21)

8.  Schuklenk U, van Delden J.J.M, Downie J, McLean S, Upshur R, Weinstock D. Report of the Royal Society of Canada Expert Panel on End-of-Life Decision Making (November, 2011) p. 101 (Accessed 2014-02-23)

9.  Schuklenk U, van Delden J.J.M, Downie J, McLean S, Upshur R, Weinstock D. Report of the Royal Society of Canada Expert Panel on End-of-Life Decision Making (November, 2011) p. 62 (Accessed 2014-02-23)

Ethical Cleansing in Ontario

 Sean Murphy*

An Ontario College of Physicians official, Dr. Marc Gabel, says that physicians unwilling to provide or facilitate abortion for reasons of conscience should not be family physicians.1 The working group Dr. Gabel chairs wants the College to approve this policy.2 If it does, ethical cleansing of Ontario’s medical profession will begin this year, ridding it of practitioners unwilling to do what they believe to be wrong. Dr. Gabel claims that this is required by professional practice and human rights legislation.

It is not clear that the Ontario Medical Association (OMA) will agree. After all, it requires some effort to maintain that physicians are ethically or morally obligated to do what they believe to be unethical or immoral. Moreover, last August, the OMA’s General and Family Practice Section warned Dr. Gabel’s working group that the quality of medical care would suffer if only students willing to sacrifice their personal integrity were accepted in medical school. Moreover, “What about remote areas of practice?” the Section asked. “Will more prescriptive policies drive physicians to feel that they will have no choice but to practice in more urban settings?”3

In other words, is it really better that a pregnant woman in Gravel Roads Only should have no local obstetrical care rather than the help of a rural physician unwilling to recommend or refer for abortion?

The concern expressed by the OMA is understandable, but actually beside the point. In truth, concern about access to services is not really what is behind the drive for ethical cleansing. That was made abundantly clear in Ottawa last year, after it was learned that an Ottawa physician was refusing to prescribe or refer for contraceptives. The story hit the front page of the Ottawa Citizen.

The Citizen did not report the mere facts: that a young woman had to drive around the block to get The Pill. That might have been dismissed as a first world problem. No: the Citizen had more ominous news. It had discovered, lurking in the nation’s capital, not just one, but three physicians who would not prescribe or refer for contraceptives or abortion.4 There was pandemonium. An activist group began preaching a crusade against the dissenters, a vitriolic feeding frenzy erupted on Facebook,5 vehement denunciations appeared elsewhere6 and the story became the subject of a province-wide CBC broadcast.7

One of the Facebookers helpfully suggested that the objecting physicians should move elsewhere, “maybe Dubai,” where they could be among their “own kind,”8 while others raged that they had “no business practicing family medicine”9 and “[did] not deserve to practice in Canada. PERIOD.”10

To find such comments on Facebook is not surprising. But it is surprising – and regrettable – that the comments offered by Dr. Gabel reflect the same attitude.

Now, there are about 4,000 physicians practising in the Ottawa area,11 and contraceptives and abortion referrals are so widely available in the city that the Medical Officer of Health says that it is cause for celebration.12 Thus, the wildly disproportionate reaction to news that 0.08% of Ottawa area physicians do not prescribe or refer for contraceptives cannot be explained as a rational response to a problem of supply and demand.

The crusade against the three physicians, now expanded by Dr. Gabel and his working group to a crusade for the ethical cleansing of the entire medical profession, is not driven by merely practical concerns about access to services. It is driven by an a markedly intolerant ideology masquerading as enlightened objectivity.

That is why the OMA’s concern that objecting physicians might be restricted to practising in urban centres is understandable, but misplaced. Ontario physicians must come to grips with the fact that, once ethical cleansing gets underway, dissenting physicians will have no refuge in big cities, even if it takes the crusaders longer to find them there.

Nor, if assisted suicide and euthanasia are legalized, will there be refuge for physicians who don’t want to participate in killing patients. The College’s draft policy on end of life care “requires physicians to sensitively respond to a patients wishes or requests to hasten death”13 and insists that physicians who “limit their practice on the basis of moral and/or religious grounds” must comply with College policy on human rights.14 If the law is changed, and Dr. Gabel and his working group get their way, this policy will require physicians who refuse to kill patients to help them find someone who will.

Physicians will be expected to prescribe, abort or refer, to lethally inject or refer, or get out of medicine – or get out of the country.


Notes

1. “Catholics doctors who reject abortion told to get out of family medicine.” The Catholic Register, 17 December, 2014 (Accessed 2014-12-19)

2. College of Physicians and Surgeons of Ontario, “Professional Obligations and Human Rights (Draft).” (Accessed 2015-01-11)

3. Letter to the College of Physicians and Surgeons of Ontario from the Ontario Medical Association Section on General and Family Practice Re: Human Rights Code Policy, 6 August, 2014. (Accessed 2015-01-11)

4. Payne E. “Some Ottawa doctors refuse to prescribe birth control pills.” Ottawa Citizen, 30 January, 2014 (Accessed 2014-02-08)

5. Murphy S. “NO MORE CHRISTIAN DOCTORS.” Protection of Conscience Project.

6. “Some Ottawa doctors refusing to prescribe birth control, cite ‘ethical concerns and religious values.’” Reddit Ottawa (Accessed 2015-01-10)

7. CBC Radio, “Should doctors have the right to say no to prescribing birth control?” Ontario Today, 25 February, 2014 (Accessed 2015-01-10)

8.  T___ M___, 29 January, 2014, 6:56 pm

9.  A___ M___ 29 January, 2014, 7:41 pm

10. R___ V___, 29 January, 2014, 7:52 pm

11. College of Physicians and Surgeons of Ontario, All Doctor Search (Accessed 2014-07-29)

12.  Levy I. (Medical Officer of Health, Ottawa) and Abdullah A. (President, Academy of Medicine, Ottawa), Letter to the Ottawa Citizen, 1 February, 2014.

13.  College of Physicians and Surgeons of Ontario, Planning for and Providing Quality End of Life Care: Key Features of the Draft Policy (Accessed 2015-01-11)

14. College of Physicians and Surgeons of Ontario, Planning for and Providing Quality End of Life Care (Draft), lines 363-365. (Accessed 2015-01-11)

No legal “duty to refer” for euthanasia or assisted suicide anywhere in the world

 

Maurice Vellacott, MP
Saskatoon-Wanuskewin

For Immediate Release

OTTAWA – In anticipation of the possible striking down of Canada’s laws against euthanasia and assisted suicide (pending the Supreme Court’s decision in the Carter case), and given the College of Physicians and Surgeons of Ontario’s (CPSO’s) draft policy “Professional Obligations and Human Rights” [i] which, if passed, would require Ontario physicians to make referrals for controversial medical procedures regardless of their conscientious/religious convictions, Member of Parliament Maurice Vellacott today issued the following statement:

I am deeply concerned about the assault on the fundamental freedoms of Ontario’s doctors should CPSO’s policy forcing doctors to make referrals for morally objectionable “treatments” pass. If the Supreme Court of Canada strikes down Canada’s current laws on euthanasia or assisted suicide, then CPSO’s policy would mean Ontario’s physicians would have a “duty to refer” patients for treatments intended to kill the patient.

From the research I have conducted, with the help of the Library of Parliament, I have learned there is not a single jurisdiction in the world that forces doctors to violate their consciences through mandatory referrals for these life-ending “treatments.” (See attached list of laws in jurisdictions which have legalized euthanasia or assisted suicide.)

We all recognize it is criminally wrong to aid or abet the commission of a criminal act.[ii] In the same way, it would be morally wrong for a doctor to aid or abet (i.e. through referral) the commission of what that doctor deems to be an immoral act – in this case, intentionally killing, or assisting in the killing of, their patient. Following one’s conscience in the provision of euthanasia or assisted suicide, then, entails making a conscientious decision not only about performing euthanasia or assisted suicide, but also about making referrals for them.

The Canadian Medical Association has long been a defender of a physician’s freedom to abstain from being involved in morally objectionable procedures. Last August, the CMA clearly expressed its support for physicians’ freedom of conscience in the provision of euthanasia and assisted suicide should those acts ever be legalized.[iii]

In spite of no jurisdiction in the world imposing on physicians a legal duty to refer for euthanasia or assisted suicide, and in spite of the support for freedom of conscience by the national medical organization representing Canada’s physicians, we have the regulatory body in Ontario poised to punish physicians who act upon their moral guidance system that tells them that killing their patients is wrong.

Over the years, there have been repeated attempts by activists and special interest groups to impose their version of morality on all health care workers (almost succeeding in 2008 to convince CPSO to impose mandatory referral, until a loud public outcry from right across the country compelled CPSO to reverse course.) Such was the threatening climate that compelled me to introduce several private members bills, in successive Parliaments, that would protect health care workers who had conscientious objections to being involved in practices that deliberately take human life.

If the Supreme Court strikes down our laws against assisted suicide/euthanasia, then it will be up to Parliament to come up with a new law. It is clear from CPSO’s actions that we can’t leave it to the regulatory bodies to protect freedom of conscience. Any new law to regulate these life-ending medical procedures will need to include explicit protection for those health care workers who won’t take part in any action that aids or abets the killing of their patients.

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For further information and comment, call (613) 992-1966 or (613) 297-2249; email: maurice.vellacott.a1@parl.gc.ca


Notes

[i] http://policyconsult.cpso.on.ca/wp-content/uploads/2014/12/Draft-Professional-Obligations-and-Human-Rights.pdf

[ii]http://laws-lois.justice.gc.ca/eng/acts/C-46/FullText.html

  1. (1) Every one is a party to an offence who
  • (a) actually commits it;
  • (b) does or omits to do anything for the purpose of aiding any person to commit it; or
  • (c) abets any person in committing it.

[iii] “Medical Association vows to protect conscience rights,” by Michael Swain, The Catholic Register, August 27, 2014, http://www.catholicregister.org/item/18703-medical-association-vows-to-protect-conscience-rights;  and Resolution adopted by General Council at 2014 AGM: “The Canadian Medical Association (CMA) supports the right of all physicians, within the bounds of existing legislation, to follow their conscience when deciding whether to provide medical aid in dying as defined in CMA’s policy on euthanasia and assisted suicide.” (https://www.cma.ca/Assets/assets-library/document/en/GC/Final-Resolutions-GC-2014-Confirmed-Nov-2014.pdf )

CBC interviewer fails to ask tough questions

Sean Murphy*

A bill has been introduced in the Canadian Senate by Conservative Senator Nancy Ruth to legalize physician assisted suicide and euthanasia.  Bill S-225’s definition of of “assist”  is of particular interest.  It means  “to provide the person with the knowledge or means to commit suicide, or to perform an act with the intent to cause the person’s death.”   Consistent with this, an “assisting physician” is one “who provides assistance” to a patient seeking euthanasia or physician-assisted suicide.

This indicates that indirectly facilitating suicide even by providing information for that purpose is equivalent to more direct forms of assistance, like providing a lethal prescription.  Further, it implies that both providing information to facilitate suicide and actually killing someone are of comparable legal or moral significance.  Many physicians and health care workers who object to assisted suicide and euthanasia would agree, and, for that reason, would refuse to refer or otherwise help a patient find someone willing to kill him or assist him in committing suicide.

The point was overlooked during an interview of Senator Ruth by Evan Solomon on CBC Television’s Power and Politics (2 December, 2014).  After discussing the contents of the bill in general terms and asking Senator Ruth about her reasons for introducing it, Solomon raised the issue of conscientious objection:

Evan Solomon:  A doctor might be watching this, and say, you know, “Great piece of legislation. What do you do if, what will you do to me if I don’t want to do this?”

Senator Ruth:  Nothing.  No doctor is coerced to do this, no patient is coerced to do this.  This is about choice.  The choice of doctors who want to assist in it and their protection . . .

Solomon failed to ask the tough questions.  Among them:

  1. If physicians will not be forced to kill patients, will they, nonetheless, be forced to help patients find someone who will?
  2. Why is it that the bill is about the choice and the protection of doctors who want to help to kill patients, and not about the choice and protection of those who refuse?
  3. When abortion was legalized, politicians and activists promised that no physician would be forced to provide abortions, but refused to include a protection of conscience provision in the law.1  Now the College of Physicians of Ontario is proposing a policy that would compel physicians to provide abortions or help  patients obtain them.2  Dr. Marc Gabel, chair of the working group that produced the draft policy, warns that physicians who refuse to do this should get out of family practice.3  As written, the policy could be applied equally to euthanasia and assisted suicide.  Why does Senator Ruth think that objecting physicians will not be coerced – if not sooner, then later?

Notes:

1. Murphy, S.  “Promises, promises.  Canadian law reformers promise tolerance, freedom of conscience:What happens after the law is changed is another story.” Protection of Conscience Project

2. “Ontario physicians to be forced to do what they believe to be wrong:  Draft policy demands that objectors provide or refer.  Policy would apply to euthanasia, if legalized.”  Protection of Conscience Project news release, 10 December, 2014

3.  Swan, M.   “Catholics doctors who reject abortion told to get out of family medicine.” The Catholic Register, 17 December, 2014.  (Accessed 2014-12-19)

 

 

Lessons Learned: May a Healthcare Professional Say No To Treating Ebola?

JD Supra Business Advisor

Daniel Meier

May a licensed healthcare professional refuse to treat a patient?  Healthcare providers have legal, ethical and professional duties to address a patient’s needs that fall within the provider’s scope of practice. However, are doctors, and other health care personnel, required to treat any and all patients, even if doing so might cost them their lives? While this is an issue that has arisen with the recent Ebola outbreak, it is not a new issue and has been previously addressed.

History of Refusing to Treat

During the early HIV/AIDS era in the 1980s, when there was little known about the disease, there were physicians and other health care workers who refused to treat HIV infected patients.  Accordingly, in 1992, the American Medical Association declared in an ethics opinion that “A physician may not ethically refuse to treat a patient whose condition is within the physician’s current realm of competence solely because the patient is seropositive for HIV. Persons who are seropositive should not be subjected to discrimination based on fear or prejudice.” AMA Opinion 9.131 (March 1992, updated June 1996 and June 1998).

Similarly, the American Dental Association stated in its Principles of Ethics and Code of Professional Conduct that, “[a] dentist has a general obligation to provide care to those in need. A decision not to provide treatment to an individual because the individual has AIDS or is HIV seropositive based solely on that fact is unethical.”  American Dental Association, ADA Principles of Ethics and Code of Professional Conduct III § 4.A.1 (2012).

During the recent Ebola outbreak, healthcare personnel were once again refusing to treat infected patients.  Is this acceptable? . . [Full text]

 

Conscientious objection to abortion: Catholic midwives lose in Supreme Court

UK Human Rights Blog

The Supreme Court recently handed down its judgment in an interesting and potentially controversial case concerning the interpretation of the conscientious objection clause in the Abortion Act 1967. Overturning the Inner House of the Court of Session’s ruling, the Court held that two Catholic midwives could be required by their employer to delegate to, supervise and support other staff who were involved in carrying out abortion procedures, as part of their roles as Labour Ward Co-ordinators at the Southern General Hospital in Glasgow.

We set out the background to the case and explained the earlier rulings and their ramifications on this blog here and here. The key question the Supreme Court had to grapple with the meaning of the words “to participate in any treatment authorised by this Act to which he has a conscientious objection” in section 4 of the 1967 Act.

The disappearing Article 9 argument

Somewhat frustratingly (at least from the perspective of the writers of a human rights blog!) an argument based around Article 9 of the European Convention – the right to freedom of thought, conscience and religion – was not really dealt with by the Supreme Court, despite having been trailed in the earlier court proceedings. Lady Hale JSC, who wrote the judgment with which the other Supreme Court Justices agreed, described the point as a “distraction” . . . [Full text]

 

Canadian Medical Association says it’s getting ready for legalized euthanasia, but critics say it is pushing it

LifeSite News

Steve Weatherbe

The Canadian Medical Association says it is preparing for the Supreme Court of Canada going either way with its imminent decision on whether or not to legalize euthanasia. But a Vancouver member says the CMA is actually pushing assisted suicide and euthanasia despite the wishes of its membership.

In a front-page article in the National Post, the CMA’s director of ethics, Dr. Jeff Blackmer, is quoted as saying, “We’re preparing for all eventualities and that [lifting the ban] is absolutely one of them.”

According to the Post, part of the CMA’s preparation for “all eventualities” is to survey how medical professions in a half-dozen U.S. states have responded to legalization. “What has worked, what hasn’t worked and how Canada can learn from those experiences,” Blackmer told the Post. Also consulted were countries that have legalized euthanasia and assisted suicide such as the Netherlands, Belgium, and Switzerland.

Blackmer did not report that the CMA consulted any of the vast majority of countries or U.S. states, which still criminalize these two procedures, to see what can be learned from their experience. . .

. . . But not everyone sees the CMA’s process as an even-handed one. The CMA “is really pulling a fast one,” said Will Johnson, a family doctor who is head of the Euthanasia Prevention Coalition of British Columbia. “It’s run by people who want assisted suicide and euthanasia and they are purporting a big change in the views of doctors on this. If they were sincere they would hold a referendum.” [Full text]