Physicians and the Ontario Human Rights Code:
Ontario Human Rights Commission attempts to suppress freedom of
Letter to to College of Physicians and Surgeons of Ontario
Reproduced with permission
August 22, 2008
College of Physicians and Surgeons of Ontario
80 College Street, Toronto, Ontario, M5G 2E2
Dear Ms. Foti,
I recently read the CPSO's draft policy document, "Physicians and the
Ontario Human Rights Code." In reviewing the document I was struck by its
intolerance towards the deeply-held, truth-based beliefs of physicians. I
therefore am writing, on behalf of the Canadian Centre for Bio-Ethical
Reform, to express our reasons for concern and to appeal to the CPSO to
reject its draft.
The draft says, in part,
Personal beliefs and values and cultural and religious
practices are central to the lives of physicians and their patients.
However, as a physician's responsibility is to place the needs of the
patient first, there will be times when it may be necessary for physicians
to set aside their personal beliefs in order to ensure that patients or
potential patients are provided with the medical treatment and services they
require [emphasis added] (p. 4).
Then, when the draft refers to Court decisions considering cases where
equality rights clash with religious freedoms, it says,
These principles appear to be generally applicable to
circumstances in which a physician's religious beliefs conflict with a
patient's need or desire [emphasis added] for medical procedures or
treatments (p. 6).
What is particularly disconcerting about the draft's standards is how
they could be referenced, for example, regarding the matter of abortion.
Here is a case in point: a physician may hold the belief that sex-selection
abortion is wrong. If she has a pregnant patient whose culture prefers male
children over female children, she should not have to violate her beliefs by
facilitating (e.g., through referral) that
patient's abortion. Yet, your policy seems to indicate she should.
Or to cite another example, an abortion-provider in British Columbia
performed an abortion on a patient who felt her pregnancy interfered with a
planned trip to Hawaii. Many medical professionals would disagree with that
and they should not have to facilitate this behavior to which their
consciences object. Even referring the patient to another physician to
perform the abortion would be to bear some participation with that abortion.
To support abortion would be to violate that physician's oath to "do no
harm." It would also be to show disregard for her patients-the patient
in-utero (confirmed by science to be a human being at fertilization) whose
life would be ended by abortion and her pregnant patient, whose life would
be negatively impacted by abortion. In fact, it would be this kind of
physician who is truly placing "the needs of the patient first." It would be
this kind of physician who rejects killing one patient as a way of dealing
with the difficult life circumstances of another patient. This kind of
physician looks for ways to help her pregnant patient without harming that
In your online brochure, "We Care About Your Care," you state,
For more than 125 years, the College of Physicians and
Surgeons of Ontario, the self-regulatory body for the medical profession,
has been 'protecting the public and guiding the profession' and helping to
ensure that Ontario's doctors and the care they give are the best.
If you are to truly live up to the claim that "Ontario's doctors and the
care they give are the best," then it is essential you protect Ontario
doctors' consciences. To strip a physician of his right to refuse
involvement with immoral practices is to demand that physicians act without
integrity-and that is hardly providing patients the best care.
Recently, medical students at the University of British Columbia were
assigned to read "Without Conscience" by Elie Wiesel (New England Journal of
Medicine, April 14, 2005). Wiesel reflects on the role physicians played in
paving the way for the Holocaust. He states,
Inspired by Nazi ideology and implemented by its
apostles, eugenics and euthanasia in the late 1930s and early 1940s served
no social necessity and had no scientific justification. Like a poison, they
ultimately contaminated all intellectual activity in Germany. But the
doctors were the precursors [emphasis added]. How can we explain their
betrayal? What made them forget or eclipse the Hippocratic Oath? What gagged
their conscience? What happened to their humanity?
One day, Hitler and Himmler's health minister made it
known to leaders in the medical field that, according to a secret decision
made at the highest level, it was necessary to get rid of "useless mouths"
-the insane, the terminally ill, children, and elderly people who were
condemned to misfortune by nature and to suffering and fear by God. Few in
the German medical profession believed it worthy or good to refuse.
Thus, instead of doing their job, instead of bringing assistance and
comfort to the sick people who needed them most, instead of helping the
mutilated and the handicapped to live, eat, and hope one more day, one more
hour, doctors became their executioners.
It is worth considering Wiesel's reflection in light of the CPSO draft:
were Nazi ideology to dominate today, the CPSO draft, in its demand for
conformity, would prevent physicians who opposed the unjust regime from
acting against it. If a parent, under such a Nazi regime, brought his
handicapped child to a physician demanding that the child be euthanized, a
physician forced to live under the CPSO draft policy would have to act on-or
refer for-the patient's wishes, or risk "professional misconduct" charges.
If anyone is guilty of professional misconduct, it is the CPSO for its
repressive and intolerant draft policy.
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