Doctors won’t impede assisted death, says CMA in open letter

Dr. Cindy Forbes

The Canadian Medical Association (CMA) would like to correct suggestions that timely patient access to assisted dying will be impeded by physicians choosing either not to provide the service or not to make a referral to a colleague or an agency.

The CMA would like to respectfully suggest that this is simply not true, and that many years of international evidence definitively shows this to be the case.

This should not be a debate between patient access or the right to conscientious objection by health care professionals; we absolutely can accomplish both. Put simply, there are other ways besides a referral to ensure access, without requiring a physician to violate his or her moral integrity. And none of these in any way involve abandonment of the patient in a time of great distress.

Access to assisted dying will not be constrained if we do not impose mandatory referral requirements on physicians who see referral as being complicit in the act itself. Nor does this in any way involve imposing the moral views of the physician on the patient he or she serves. . . [Full text]

Legalised euthanasia: Christian doctors in Canada want ‘conscience rights’ protected

World

Shianee Mamanglu-Regala

A Christian physician organisation, which represents several thousand Christian physicians in Canada, is sounding an alarm about the implications of a new bill that when passed, will forced them to perform legalised euthanasia, which could violate their conscience rights.

In February 2015, the Supreme Court of Canada struck down the law against assisted suicide, ruling that it was a breach of an individual’s Charter rights. The court gave the federal government one year to pass a new legislation but recently extended the deadline to June. . . [Full text]

Nova Scotia euthanasia/assisted suicide standards respect physician integrity

Protection of Conscience Project warns physician freedom still potentially “at risk”

For immediate release

Protection of Conscience Project

The Protection of Conscience Project is generally satisfied with the proposed standard of practice issued by the College of Physicians and Surgeons of Nova Scotia to guide physicians in responding to requests for euthanasia and assisted suicide.

In a submission to the College, the Project stated that the standard “is satisfactory with respect to the accommodation of physician freedom of conscience and respect for the moral integrity of physicians.”

Consistent with the Supreme Court of Canada ruling in Carter v. Canada and with the approach taken by the Canadian Medical Association, the standard does not require physicians to provide or participate in euthanasia or assisted suicide.

The Project submission includes recommendations to avoid conflicts of conscience associated with failed assisted suicide and euthanasia attempts and urgent situations.  It also cautions the College about the continuing effects of the criminal law.

However, quoting the College Registrar’s presentation to the parliamentary Special Joint Committee on Physician Assisted Dying, the submission warns that the fundamental freedoms of physicians in the province remain at risk because of the attitude and intentions of the Registrar and others.

Contact:

(Sean Murphy) Administrator
Protection of Conscience Project
E-mail: protection@consciencelaws.org

Submission to the College of Physicians and Surgeons of Nova Scotia

Re: Standard of Practice: Physician Assisted Death

Abstract

The Project considers the proposed standard of practice satisfactory with respect to the accommodation of physician freedom of conscience and respect for the moral integrity of physicians. Neither direct nor indirect participation in euthanasia and assisted suicide is required.

The Project offers simple and uncontroversial recommendations to avoid conflicts of conscience associated with failed assisted suicide and euthanasia attempts and urgent situations.

The standard does not adequately address the continuing effects of criminal law. The College has no basis to proceed against physicians who, having the opinion that a patient does not fit one of the criteria specified by Carter, refuse to do anything that would entail complicity in homicide or suicide. College policies and expectations are of no force and effect to the extent that they are inconsistent with criminal prohibitions.

While the standard is satisfactory with respect to freedom of conscience, the fundamental freedoms of physicians in Nova Scotia will remain at risk as long as the College Registrar and others persist in the attitude and intentions demonstrated in his presentation to the Special Joint Committee on Physician Assisted Dying.


Contents

I.    Outline of the submission

II.    Avoiding foreseeable conflicts

II.1    Failed assisted suicide and euthanasia
II.2    Urgent situations
II.3    Project recommendations

III.    SPPAD and criminal law

IV.    Remarks of the Registrar

IV.1    The Registrar before the Special Joint Committee on Physician Assisted Dying
IV.2    The Registrar, the Conscience Research Group, and “effective referral”
IV.3    The Registrar’s intentions
IV.4    The Registrar’s complaint
IV.5    An ethic of servitude, not service

V.    Conclusion

Appendix “A”    Supreme Court of Canada, Carter v. Canada (Attorney General), 2015 SCC 5

A1.    Carter criteria for euthanasia and physician assisted suicide
A2.    Carter and the criminal law
A3.    Carter and freedom of conscience and religion

Appendix “B”    Conscience Research Group

B1.    Attempts to coerce physicians: abortion
B2.    Plans to coerce physicians: assisted suicide and euthanasia
B3.   Plans to coerce physicians: the CRG Model Policy
B4.    CRG convenes meeting with College representatives

Docs will flee, experts warn

London Free Press

Jonathon Sher

Dr. Maria MacDonald laboured 12 years as a student and medical resident to become a neurologist, but the Londoner may give that up if she’s forced to refer patients to a physician-assisted death.

“My freedom of conscience has been violated,” she said. “Do I have to leave and go to another field?”

Other doctors are asking that same question in Ontario, whose regulatory college is the only one in Canada to demand that physicians who oppose helping patients die refer them to a colleague willing to assist in a death.

“It’s an extensive belief,” said Larry Worthen, executive director of the Christian Medical and Dental Society of Canada.

A month ago, Worthen said, he teleconferenced with 40 doctors and some already had taken steps so they could leave Ontario and practise medicine elsewhere. . . [Full text]

Assisted dying: Parliament must let doctors practise with a clear conscience

Globe and Mail

John Carpay

Since the Supreme Court legalized physician-assisted dying last year, some have argued that physicians should be required to help patients kill themselves, even if this violates their Charter-protected conscience freedoms.

As Parliament creates new legislation to respond to this court ruling, some insist that doctors must simply provide whatever a patient may want, or else refer the patient to another doctor who will. This claim trivializes the freedom of conscience of all Canadians, and the role of ethics and morality in medicine.

For more than 2,000 years, physicians have been guided by ethics and morality, not science alone, through the foundational principles embodied in the Hippocratic Oath and its modern incarnations.

In deciding what is best for their patients, doctors are not mindless dispensaries for medication. Science can inform us about what quantity of which drug is required to end a patient’s life, but science cannot tell us whether it is right to end a patient’s life through assisted suicide or other means of deliberate death. . . [Full text]

 

Supreme Court of Canada respect for physician freedom of conscience and religion is not “a cop-out”

Responding to “Patient rights – even in death – must trump a doctor’s discomfort.” Globe and Mail, 1 February, 2016

Sean Murphy*

moralconvictionsAccording to André Picard, the Supreme Court of Canada decided last year that patients could ask to be killed by physicians or ask physicians to help them commit suicide, but physicians could not be compelled “to actually kill a patient.” He describes this as “a perfectly reasonable balancing and reconciling of rights.”1

Indeed, it is perfectly reasonable to believe that physicians should not be forced to actually kill a patient. However, Mr. Picard is mistaken when he claims that the Supreme Court of Canada reconciled or balanced the rights of patients and physicians in the Carter ruling. The Court did not even attempt to do so, stating, instead, that patient and physician rights “will need to be reconciled.”2

With respect to physicians, the Court stated that “nothing” in the ruling would compel physicians to “provide” or “participate in” euthanasia or assisted suicide. This is precisely the language and thinking adopted by the Canadian Medical Association (CMA) in its policy framework.3 Mr. Picard is clearly angry about this, calling it “a cop-out that creates real barriers for desperately ill patients,” one that “regulators and legislators cannot and should not accept.”

However, in the face of the Carter ruling, Mr. Picard cannot expect the CMA, regulators and legislators to impose his deeply held personal belief that refusing to compel physicians to provide or participate in homicide or assisted suicide is an unacceptable “cop-out.”

Mr. Picard clearly prefers the policy of the College of Physicians and Surgeons of Ontario (CPSO) on “effective referral,” which demands that physicians who refuse “to actually kill a patient” must help find someone willing to do the actual killing.

Contrary to his claim that effective referral is a “well-established policy,” it was first imposed by the CPSO in Ontario last year in the face of overwhelming opposition, on the basis of deficient, erroneous and seriously misleading briefing materials, and without evidence that even a single person in Ontario had ever been unable to access medical services because of conscientious objection by a physician.4 It is the subject of an ongoing constitutional court challenge,5 and is not supported by the BC Civil Liberties Association – one of the driving forces behind Carter’s challenge to the law.6 None of this seems to concern Mr. Picard.

“Patient need takes precedence over physician discomfort,” he says, “and patient rights trump physician rights.”

However, the CMA’s Dr. Jeff Blackmer told the joint parliamentary committee on assisted dying that this is a false dichotomy. There are enough physicians willing to provide euthanasia or assisted suicide to meet the expected demand, he said, and other jurisdictions do not require “effective referral” by objecting physicians but there is no difficulty with access.7

“This should not be a debate between patient access OR the right to conscientious objection by health care professionals,” writes CMA President, Dr. Cindy Forbes. “We can absolutely accomplish both.”8

Mr. Picard’s demand that physicians must get over discomfort about killing people at least to the extent that they will contract out the actual killing no doubt reflects his deeply held personal beliefs. However, if the real goal is to ensure access – not ideologically driven ethical cleansing – there is no reason to demand that physicians do what they believe to be wrong. If the 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, and that can be done without demanding “effective referral.”

Notes

1. Picard A. “Patient rights – even in death – must trump a doctor’s discomfort.” Globe and Mail, 1 February, 2016 (Accessed 2016-02-04).

2. Carter v. Canada (Attorney General), 2015 SCC 5, para. 132. (Accessed 2016-02-04).

3. Canadian Medical Association,  Principles-based Recommendations for a Canadian Approach to Assisted Dying (2016) (Accessed 2016-01-09).

4. Protection of Conscience Project, Submission to the College of Physicians and Surgeons of Saskatchewan (5 June, 2015) Re: Conscientious Refusal (as revised). Appendix “A”: Ontario College briefing materials .

5. Ontario Superior Court of Justice, Between the Christian Medical and Dental Society of Canada et al and College of Physicians and Surgeons of Ontario, Notice of Application, 20 March, 2015. Court File 15-63717.

6. Legislative Assembly of British Columbia, Report of Proceedings (Hansard), Select Standing Committee on Health. Wednesday, July 15, 2015, Issue No. 17, p. 270 (Accessed 2016-02-02).

7. Special Joint Committee on Physician Assisted Dying, Evidence: Wednesday, January 27, 2016. (Accessed 2016-02-04)

8. Forbes C. “Time for myth-busting on assisted dying.” Canadian Medical Association (4 February, 2016)

A “uniquely Canadian approach” to freedom of conscience

Provincial-Territorial Experts recommend coercion to ensure delivery of euthanasia and assisted suicide

Recommendations designed to broaden and maximize impact of Supreme Court ruling

Sean Murphy*

Abstract

prov-reportThe Experts’ recommendations are intended to extend and maximize the impact of the Carter ruling. They will effectively require all institutions, facilities, associations, organizations and individuals providing either health care or residential living for elderly, handicapped or disabled persons to become enablers of euthanasia and assisted suicide. This will entail suppression or significant restriction of fundamental freedoms.

The broader the criteria for the provision of morally contested procedures, and the more people and groups captured in the Experts’ enablers’ net, the greater the likelihood of conflicts of conscience.  Relevant here are recommendations to make euthanasia/assisted suicide available to mentally ill and incompetent persons, and to children and adolescents, even without the knowledge of their parents.

The Experts’ distinction between “faith-based” and “non-faith-based” facilities is meaningless. They impose identical obligations on both. All will be forced to allow homicide and suicide on their premises, or compelled to arrange for euthanasia or assisted suicide elsewhere.
Likewise, they recommend that objecting physicians be forced to actively enable homicide or suicide by providing referrals, arranging direct transfers or enlisting or arranging the enlistment of patients in a euthanasia/assisted suicide delivery system.

The Supreme Court did not rule that people ought to be compelled to become parties to homicide and suicide, but that is what the Experts recommend. This is not a reasonable limitation of fundamental freedoms, but a reprehensible attack on them and a serious violation of human dignity.

Other countries make euthanasia and assisted suicide available without attacking fundamental freedoms. In this respect, the Experts’ claim to have produced “a uniquely Canadian approach to this important issue” is regrettably accurate. They fail to provide any evidence that the suppression of freedom of fundamental freedoms they propose can be demonstrably justified in a free and democratic society.


Table of Contents

I.    Background

I.1    Formation and work of the Advisory Group

II.    Overview of the Final Report

II.1    Moral/ethical unanimity
II.2    “Statement of Principles and Values”
II.3    Recommendations broadening the Carter criteria
II.4    Recommendations impacting freedom of conscience and religion

III.    The Experts’ “uniquely Canadian approach”

III.1     Expanded criteria and increasing likelihood of conflict

III.1.1    “Irremediable medical condition”.
III.1.3     Euthanasia approved for future suffering.
III.1.7     No waiting/reflection period.
III.1.10     Adolescents and children.
III.1.13     Euthanasia/assisted suicide by non-physicians.
III.1.15     Doctor shopping.
III.1.18     Physicians need not be present at suicides.
III.1.20     Euthanasia/assisted suicide wherever people live.
III.1.22     Families, caregivers may not be advised.

III.2    Institutions, associations, organizations

III.2.1     The meaning of institution.
III.2.3    All “institutions” must allow/arrange euthanasia/assisted suicide
III.2.6     All “institutions” must disclose policies.
III.2.8     “Institutions” may not manifest or enforce commitments

III.3    Objecting physicians: information, disclosure, non-discrimination

III.3.3    Objecting physicians must provide information.
III.3.8    Objecting physicians must disclose views and their implications.
III.3.11    Objecting physicians must not illicitly discriminate.

III.4    Objecting physicians must become critical enablers

III.4.4    Referral or direct transfer of care.
III.4.5    Referral to “system/third party.”
III.4.8    The Experts’ proposal and the CMA’s proposal.

IV.    Project response

IV.1    Expert recommendations broadening Carter criteria
IV.2    Expert recommendations and fundamental freedoms in general
IV.3    Expert recommendations and freedom of conscience

V.    Conclusion


Appendix “A”  Supreme Court of Canada, Carter v. Canada (Attorney General), 2015 SCC 5

A1.    Carter criteria for euthanasia and physician assisted suicide
A2.    Carter and the criminal law
A3.    Carter and freedom of conscience and religion

Appendix “B”  Expert recommendations re: broadening Carter criteria

B1.     Expanding the Carter criteria

B1.1    “Grievous and irremediable medical condition” includes mental illness
B1.2    Suffering not a prerequisite
B1.3    Competence not a prerequisite: euthanasia for dementia
B1.4    Euthanasia and assisted suicide for children and adolescents
B1.5    Assessment, euthanasia and assisted suicide by non-physicians

B2.    Increasing the impact of Carter

B2.3    Doctor shopping
B2.4    No “waiting/reflection” period
B2.5    Physicians need not be present at suicides
B2.6    Euthanasia & assisted suicide in hospitals, hospices, etc.
B2.7    Families and caregivers may not be advised

Appendix “C”    Expert recommendations re: freedom of conscience and religion

C1.    Institutions

C1.1    Meaning of “institution”
C1.2    “Institutions” must allow or arrange for euthanasia or assisted suicide
C1.3    All “institutions” must disclose position on euthanasia and assisted suicide
C1.4    “Institutions” must not require patients/residents to give up “the right to access,” interfere with employees providing eutanasia or assisted suicide elsewhere

C2.    Objecting physicians/health care providers

C2.1    Must provide information on “all options”
C2.2    Must disclose views on euthanasia and assisted suicide
C2.3    Must not discriminate
C2.4    Must act as critical enablers

C2.4.1  Three alternatives
C2.4.2  Referral
C2.4.3  Direct transfer of care
C2.4.4  Transfer to “a publicly-funded system” or “third party”
C2.4.5  The Experts’ “system/third party” and the CMA’s “central service”

Appendix “D”    Canadian Medical Association on euthanasia and assisted suicide

D1.    CMA policy: Euthanasia and Assisted Death (2014)
D2.    CMA Annual General Council, 2015

D2.1    Surveys on support for euthanasia/assisted suicide
D2.2    Physician freedom of conscience

D3.    CMA rejects “effective referral”

Appendix “E”    International comparisons

E1.    Netherlands
E2.    Luxembourg
E3.    Belgium
E4.    Oregon
E5.    Washington
E6.    Vermont
E7.    California

Appendix “F”    An Act to Safeguard Against Homicide and Suicide

 

College of Physicians and Surgeons of Ontario decided results of consultation before it started

College decided that physicians must refer for euthanasia/assisted suicide at least a month before consultation began

News Release

Protection of Conscience Project

The College of Physicians and Surgeons of Ontario (CPSO) decided by the first week of November, 2015, that it will force Ontario physicians who refuse to kill patients or help them commit suicide to find someone willing to do so.  The decision was made a month before the College began a public consultation purporting to solicit input on that and other questions related to euthanasia and assisted suicide.

The decision was revealed in the Report of the Federal External Panel consultations on euthanasia and assisted suicide, released today.

When College representatives appeared before the Panel in Toronto between 2 and 6 November, they told the Panel  “that physicians who object to physician-assisted dying requests have a positive obligation to make an effective referral.”

An effective referral, as described by the Ontario College, is a referral made in good faith to a non-objecting available and accessible physician, other health care professional, or agency. The College noted that the medical community has an obligation to ensure access and that conscientious objection should not create barriers.” (p. 100)

“The Protection of Conscience Project submission was made on 10 January, said Sean Murphy, Project Administrator.

“Two days later, the Canadian Medical Association made an excellent submission rejecting the proposal of  ‘effective referral’,” he added.

“Many people responded in good faith to the College’s invitation to participate in the consultation,” said Murphy.  “But it seems that public consultations about College policy are an expensive and time-consuming charade.”

Last year, College officials wrote the final version of the CPSO policy demanding “effective referral” for morally contested procedures nine days before the consultation closed.  80% of almost 16,000 submissions on the subject were received after the final version had been written.

 

 

 

 

Canadian Medical Association Submission to the College of Physicians and Surgeons of Ontario

Consultation on CPSO Interim Guidance on Physician-Assisted Death

Project Introduction

The following submission sets out the position of the Canadian Medical Association (CMA) on referral, within the context of the provision of euthanasia and assisted suicide.  The submission concerns a proposed policy by the state regulator of medicine in the province of Ontario, the College of Physicians and Surgeons (CPSO).  The College proposed that its policy of “effective referral” for morally contested services be applied to euthanasia and assisted suicide.

Among the excellent points made by the Association:

It is in fact in a patient’s best interests and in the public interest for physicians to act as moral agents, and not as technicians or service providers devoid of moral judgement. . . . medical regulators ought to be articulating obligations that encourage moral agency, instead of imposing a duty that is essentially punitive to those for whom it is intended and renders an impoverished understanding of conscience.

Full text of the CMA submission