USCCB Poll: Americans Support Conscience Protection for Healthcare Professionals

News Release

US Conference of Catholic Bishops

September 18, 2019

WASHINGTON, D.C. – Two new polls have revealed widespread discrimination against healthcare workers of faith, as well as broad public support for conscience rights laws and protections. The findings were released today by the United States Conference of Catholic Bishops (USCCB) Committees on Pro-Life Activities; Religious Liberty; Domestic and Social Development; and the Subcommittee for the Promotion and Defense of Marriage, as well as the Christian Medical & Dental Associations (CMDA), the largest faith-based association for healthcare professionals.
 
The findings come in the wake of enforcement actions taken by the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) against the University of Vermont Medical Center, which is alleged to have coerced a nurse into participating in an abortion against her beliefs.

Archbishop Joseph F. Naumann, of Kansas City in Kansas and Chairman of the Committee on Pro-Life Activities; Bishop Robert J. McManus, of Worcester and Chairman of the Committee for Religious Liberty; Bishop Frank J. Dewane, of Venice, and Chairman of the Committee on Domestic Justice and Human Development, and Bishop James D. Conley, of Lincoln and Chairman of the Subcommittee for Promotion and Defense of Marriage offered the following statement on the findings:

“An overwhelming majority of Americans agree: no healthcare professional should be forced to violate deeply-held beliefs in order to keep a job. The practice of medicine depends on those courageous and generous enough to serve all people—especially the poor and marginalized—with the highest ethical standards. If we exclude people of faith from the medical profession, Americans will suffer, especially those most in need.”

For more information, click here: http://www.usccb.org/about/pro-life-activities/conscience-protection-teleconference.cfm

Media Contact:
Chieko Noguchi
202-541-3200

Christian Medical & Dental Associations reveal national survey findings on healthcare and conscience

News Release

Christian Medical & Dental Associations

Washington, D.C., September 18, 2019 — The Christian Medical & Dental Associations (CMDA ), the nation’s largest faith-based association of health professionals, today released findings of a national survey showing that conscience-protecting laws and regulations help protect patient access to health care while addressing rampant discrimination against faith-based health professionals.

The survey, a nationwide poll of faith-based health professionals, conducted by Heart and Mind Strategies, LLC, found that 91 percent said they would have to “stop practicing medicine altogether than be forced to violate my conscience.” That finding holds significant implications for millions of patients, especially the poor and those in underserved regions who depend upon faith-based health facilities and professionals for their care.

The survey of faith-based health professionals also found that virtually all care for patients “regardless of sexual orientation, gender identification, or family makeup, with sensitivity and compassion, even when I cannot validate their choices.” The finding puts the lie to the charge that somehow conscience protections will result in whole classes of patients being denied care.

“Faith-based health professionals actually seek out and serve marginalized patients to provide compassionate care, ” explained CM D A CEO Emeritus Dr. David Stevens. “All we ask as we serve is that the government not intrude into the physician-patient relationship by dictating that we must do controversial procedures and prescriptions that counter our best medical judgment or religious beliefs .”

CM DA is currently represented by the Becket law firm in two related cases: Franciscan Alliance v. Azar , which addresses an Affordable Care Act transgender mandate, and New York v. HHS, which addresses a new federal conscience protection rule.

Detail on the poll of faith-based professionals can be found at CMDA-Poll and Freedom2Care.org

OCR Issues Notice of Violation to the University of Vermont Medical Center After It Unlawfully Forced a Nurse to Assist in Abortion

News Release
For immediate release

US Department of Health and Human Services

Contact: HHS Press Office
202-690-6343
media@hhs.gov

The U.S. Department of Health and Human Services (HHS), Office for Civil Rights (OCR) is announcing that, after a thorough investigation and prolonged attempts to resolve the matter, OCR has issued a Notice of Violation letter finding that the University of Vermont Medical Center (UVMMC) violated the Church Amendments (42 U.S.C. 300a-7) by forcing a nurse to assist in an elective abortion procedure over the nurse’s conscience-based objections. OCR also found that UVMMC has discriminatory policies that assign or require employees to assist abortion procedures even after they have recorded their religious or moral objections to assisting in the performance of such abortions. OCR’s Notice of Violation letter asks UVMMC to conform its policies to the Church Amendments and take other corrective action, or face potential action by the HHS component from which UVMMC has received federal funding.

On May 9, 2018, a nurse at UVMMC filed a conscience and religious discrimination complaint with OCR against UVMMC, a medical center in Burlington, Vermont that receives HHS funds, contending that the nurse was forced to assist an abortion in violation of the nurse’s conscience rights. As part of its investigation, OCR contacted UVMMC repeatedly in a good faith effort to seek cooperation from UVMMC, but the hospital refused to conform its policies to federal conscience laws, provide all the documents requested by OCR, or produce witnesses for OCR interviews. Nevertheless, OCR interviewed multiple witnesses and gathered evidence concerning the allegations.

As a result of its investigation, OCR has specifically determined that:

  • UVMMC forced the nurse complainant to assist in an abortion against the nurse’s religious or moral objection. The nurse had expressed an objection for many years and was included in a list of objectors, but UVMMC knowingly assigned the nurse to an abortion procedure. The nurse was not told the procedure was an abortion until the nurse walked into the room, when the doctor—knowing the nurse objected to assisting in abortions—told the nurse, “Don’t hate me.” The nurse again objected, and other staff were present who could have taken the nurse’s place, but the nurse was required to assist with the abortion anyway. If the nurse had not done so, the nurse reasonably feared UVMMC would fire or report the nurse to licensing authorities.
  • OCR spoke with several other UVMMC health care personnel who, since at least the spring of 2017, have been intentionally, unnecessarily, and knowingly scheduled by UVMMC to assist with elective abortions against their religious or moral objections. Such personnel were often not told in advance that the procedures they were being assigned to assist with were abortions. Health care personnel who are coerced in that way suffer moral injury, are subjected to a crisis of conscience, and frequently experience significant emotional distress, even if they succeed in declining to assist in the procedure after the assignment is made.
  • UVMMC maintains a staffing policy that facially violates the Church Amendments because the policy admits to circumstances where UVMMC can and will force staff—on pain of adverse action or discipline—to participate in abortions against their moral or religious objections. The policy also violates UVMMC’s agreement, as a condition of receiving HHS funds, to comply with federal law, including the Church Amendments and HHS’s grants regulations.
  • Consequently, UVMMC is violating 42 U.S.C. § 300a-7(c)(1) of the Church Amendments by discriminating against health-care personnel who have religious or moral objections to abortion, and subjecting them to different terms or conditions of employment than other health-care personnel.

In the Notice of Violation, OCR asks that UVMMC notify OCR within thirty days whether UVMMC intends to work collaboratively with OCR to change its policies so it no longer requires health care personnel to participate in abortion against their religious or moral objections, and to take immediate steps to remedy the effect of its past discriminatory conduct. Otherwise, OCR indicates that it will forward the Notice to the Health Resources and Services Administration (HRSA), a component of HHS that provides grant funds to UVMMC, for consideration and possible additional procedures concerning UVMMC’s receipt of federal funds.  Since October 1998, UVMMC has received—and continues to receive—grants from HRSA.  For the most recently completed three-year project period, which ended April 30, 2018, UVMMC reported that it cumulatively expended $1.6 million of federal financial assistance.

Roger Severino, Director of OCR said, “Forcing medical staff to assist in the taking of human life inflicts a moral injury on them that is not only unnecessary and wrong, it violates longstanding federal law. Our investigation has uncovered serious discrimination by UVMMC against nurses and staff who cannot, in good conscience, assist in elective abortions.”  Severino concluded, “We stand ready to assist UVMMC in changing its policies and procedures to respect conscience rights and remedy the effects of its discrimination.” 

OCR is charged with helping ensure entities come into compliance with federal laws protecting conscience and prohibiting coercion in health care, including the Church Amendments.

Doctor charged for advising that unborn babies are human

Media Release

Embargo: Immediate release

Doctors for Life International

Enquiries: Doctors For Life Int. Telephone: 032 481 5550 / +27 74 107 8818 (not for SMS)

Former Military Hospital doctor, Dr Jacques de Vos, has been charged by the Health Professions Council of South Africa (HPCSA) for advising that abortion is the killing of an unborn human being. Dr De Vos, who is a member of Doctors For Life International (DFL) will finally be able to respond to charges after waiting more than two years since being barred from practicing as a doctor.

Dr De Vos was a medical intern at 2 Military Hospital when he was suspended from the gynaecology rotation and refused to be signed off. As a result, Dr De Vos has also been prevented from commencing his community service year, effectively barring him from practicing medicine in South Africa for the past two years. Despite numerous efforts by Dr De Vos and his legal team, Dr De Vos has not received any assistance from the SA Military Health Service or the HPCSA to continue with his career.

Adv Keith Matthee SC, instructed by De Wet Wepener Attorneys, will represent Dr De Vos when he appears before a five or six-member panel disciplinary enquiry scheduled for 27 and 28 August 2019 in Cape Town. This case is likely to attract great interest in the medical community as healthcare practitioners such as Dr De Vos are often victimized and discriminated against for upholding the sanctity of life for unborn children and for advising women of the adverse effects of abortion on the mother of the unborn child.

The hearings are open to the public. The venue is yet to be confirmed by the HPCSA.

For more information, contact Martus de Wet of De Wet Wepener Attorneys at 057 004 0004.


Doctors For Life International NPC
Tel: +27 (0) 32 481 5550 – mail@dfl.org.za – PO Box 6613 Zimbali 4418 South Africa – Reg. No. 2002/000258/08 –
NPO Reg. No. 030-091-NPO ● Find us on Facebook: https://web.facebook.com/doctors4life/

Coalition Offended and Displeased with Recent Comments Attacking Conscience Rights

News Release

Christian Medical Association

WASHINGTON, July 25, 2019 /Standard Newswire/ — Today, a coalition of medical organizations released a public statement condemning recent statements on abortion and conscience protections made by the American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists, the American Academy of Pediatrics, the American Academy of Family Physicians, the American College of Physicians, the American Psychiatric Association and the American Osteopathic Association. The letter calls on this “Group of Six” to respect their position and represent all physician members in their public statements.

The coalition asserts in their statement to not use the “sanctity of the patient-physician relationship” as an excuse to passively ignore or actively reject the sanctity of human life, from conception to natural death. Furthermore, they encouraged their primary care colleagues to recognize the inherent right to life of all human persons, regardless of age, stage of development, physical or mental ability, physical location, state of dependency or the subjective designation of “being desired.” The coalition is calling for better and more equitable healthcare for all vulnerable populations, including improved access to maternal and fetal healthcare, and improvement on social determinants of health.

The coalition is made up of the American Association of Pro-Life Obstetricians and Gynecologists, American College of Pediatricians, Catholic Medical Association, Christian Medical Association, Coptic Medical Association, National Association of Catholic Nurses and The National Catholic Bioethics Center.

Executive Director of American Association of Pro-Life Obstetricians and Gynecologists (AAPLOG) Donna Harrison, MD, said, “The Hippocratic Oath forbids both abortion and euthanasia. Neither the Group of Six nor any other group can force a physician to violate the Hippocratic Oath on which the doctor patient covenant is founded.”

Executive Director of American College of Pediatricians (ACPeds) Michelle Cretella, MD, said “Americans need to realize that the Group of Six do not represent physicians who take an oath to first do no harm in the tradition of Hippocrates. The Hippocratic Oath logically forbids the intentional killing of human life from conception to natural death. Death is not a state of health; killing is not caring. Abortion, assisted suicide and euthanasia are not health care.”

Chief Executive Officer of Christian Medical Association (CMA) David Stevens, MD, MA (Ethics), said, “Physicians are leaving these medical professional organizations because they no longer represent their worldview. The coalition’s letter will only encourage efforts to force life-honoring professionals out of healthcare to the detriment of our healthcare system and, more importantly, our patients. Pro-life patients want a pro-life physician.”

Senior Fellow of The National Catholic Bioethics Center Marie Hilliard said, “It is important to always recognize when considering the perinatal provider-patient relationship that there are two patients whose best interest we are charged in enhancing. Abortion violates that obligation.”

President of National Association of Catholic Nurses, U.S.A. Diane Ruzicka, RN, MSN, said, “Physicians and nurses have a sacred responsibility to preserve and protect life. This was well known by the pagan Greek physician Hippocrates (430-370BC) credited with composing the Hippocratic Oath in which he stated, ‘I will not give a lethal drug to anyone if I am asked, nor will I advise such a plan; and similarly I will not give a woman a pessary to cause an abortion.’ Translated by Michael North, National Library of Medicine, 2002.

“The natural moral law informs us that civilized societies do not kill their young.

“As a society founded on the natural moral law and Christian principles, the Bible which is the Word of God consigned to writing, reveals how precious is man:

  1. ‘Before I formed you in the womb I knew you….’ — God to Jeremiah in Jeremiah 1:5
     
  2. ‘Does a woman forget her baby at the breast, or fail to cherish the son of her womb? Yet even if these forget, I will never forget you.’ — God to Isaiah in Isaiah 49:15  
  3. Lastly, it was the unborn baby in the womb of Elizabeth who first recognized Jesus, the Savior of the world, in the womb of Mary. At six months gestation John the Baptist recognizes the newly conceived Jesus, God incarnate, the Word of God made flesh, in His mother’s womb. — Luke 1:41

“Human life is precious and of immense dignity. Physicians and nurses have a sacred duty to protect life from conception to the time of death ordained by God,” Ruzicka said.

The coalition’s full statement can be viewed here.

SOURCE Christian Medical Association

CONTACT: Margie Shealy, Margie.shealy@cmda.org, 423-844-1047

Short Form Conclusion of the China Tribunal’s Judgment

China Tribunal

In December 2018 The Tribunal issued an interim judgement:

“The Tribunal’s members are certain – unanimously, and sure beyond reasonable doubt – that in China forced organ harvesting from prisoners of conscience has been practiced for a substantial period of time involving a very substantial number of victims.”

. . .The Tribunal has considered evidence, in its many forms, and dealt with individual issues according to the evidence relating to each issue and nothing else and thereby reached a series of conclusions that are free of any influence caused by the PRC’s reputation or other potential causes of prejudice. . .

These individual conclusions, when combined, led to the unavoidable final conclusion that;

Forced organ harvesting has been committed for years throughout China on a significant scale and that Falun Gong practitioners have been one – and probably the main – source of organ supply. The concerted persecution and medical testing of the Uyghurs is more recent and it may be that evidence of forced organ harvesting of this group may emerge in due course. The Tribunal has had no evidence that the significant infrastructure associated with China’s transplantation industry has been dismantled and absent a satisfactory explanation as to the source of readily available organs concludes that forced organ harvesting continues till today.

. . . Governments and any who interact in any substantial way with the PRC including:

  • Doctors and medical institutions;
  • Industry, and businesses, most specifically airlines, travel companies, financial services businesses, law firms and pharmaceutical and insurance companies together with individual tourists,
  • Educational establishments;
  • Arts establishments

should now recognise that they are, to the extent revealed above, interacting with a criminal state.

China Tribunal Summary Report VIEW/DOWNLOAD HERE

Ontario Court of Appeal supports ‘effective referral’ for morally contested procedures, including euthanasia


Court unanimously affirms right of state to compel participation in homicide, suicide, etc.

News Release

Protection of Conscience Project

On 15 May, 2019, three judges of the Ontario Court of Appeal unanimously upheld a lower court ruling that physicians can be forced to facilitate procedures they find morally objectionable, including euthanasia and assisted suicide, by connecting patients with willing providers (“effective referral”).

The Court of Appeal judgement concerned a 2018 decision by the Ontario Divisional Court that had been appealed by the Christian Medical and Dental Society of Canada and others. The litigation was a response to a compulsory “effective referral” policy imposed by Ontario’s state medical regulator, the College of Physicians and Surgeons of Ontario.

The Protection of Conscience Project, Catholic Civil Rights League and Faith and Freedom Alliance jointly intervened at trial and in the appeal in support of freedom of conscience.

The Divisional Court and the Court of Appeal both acknowledged the joint intervention, but neither considered the arguments it proposed because the case was decided solely on the basis of freedom of religion claims. The Court of Appeal held that the evidence at trial was “insufficient to support an analysis of freedom of conscience.”

“To the extent the individual appellants raise issues of conscience,” said the Court, “they are inextricably grounded in their religious beliefs,” so that, “at its core, the appellants’ claim is grounded in freedom of religion.”[para. 85]

Since the arguments in the Project’s intervention were not addressed at trial or in the appeal, Project Administrator Sean Murphy believes that they are unaffected by the decision.

“The focus of the Court was on religiously-motivated refusal to participate in perceived wrongdoing,” said Murphy. “The analytical framework proposed in the joint intervention could easily have been adapted and applied to that particular form of the exercise of religious freedom. The evidentiary record would have been sufficient for that purpose.”

“However, the Court did not do this, so the arguments still stand, and they can be raised again in another appropriate case.”

The decision demonstrates that the judges uncritically adopted the view of the College that euthanasia, assisted suicide, abortion, contraception, sterilization, sex change surgery, etc. are acceptable forms of medical treatment or health care. They further noted that abortion, euthanasia and assisted suicide “carry the stigmatizing legacy of several centuries of criminalization grounded in religious and secular morality.” [para. 123]. On the other hand, they gave no weight to contrary views held by the plaintiffs.

The Court of Appeal also supported the College’s assertion that objecting physicians unwilling to comply with the demand for effective referral could change their scope of practice and move into fields like “sleep medicine, hair restoration, sport and exercise medicine, hernia repair, skin disorders . . . obesity medicine, aviation examinations, travel medicine . . . administrative medicine or surgical assistance.”[para. 71]

The appellants have 60 days to consider and appeal to the Supreme Court of Canada.

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

Australian Medical Association Updates Advice to Doctors with Conscientious Objections

News Release

Australian Medical Association

The AMA has released its updated Position Statement on Conscientious Objection 2019 (replacing the Position Statement on Conscientious Objection 2013). The policy was reviewed as part of the AMA’s routine, five-year policy review cycle.

A conscientious objection occurs when a doctor, as a result of a conflict with his or her own personal beliefs or values, acknowledges that they cannot provide, or participate in, a legal, legitimate treatment or procedure that would be deemed medically appropriate in the circumstances under professional standards.

A conscientious objection is based on sincerely-held beliefs and moral concerns, not self-interest or discrimination.

AMA President, Dr Tony Bartone, said today that doctors are entitled to have their own personal beliefs and values, as are all members of the community.

“However, doctors have an ethical obligation to minimise disruption to patient care and must never use a conscientious objection to intentionally impede patients’ access to care,” Dr Bartone said.

The AMA advises that a doctor with a conscientious objection should:

  • inform the patient of their objection, preferably in advance or as soon as practicable;
  • inform the patient that they have the right to see another doctor and ensure the patient has sufficient information to enable them to exercise that right;
  • take whatever steps are necessary to ensure the patient’s access to care is not impeded;
  • continue to treat the patient with dignity and respect, even if the doctor objects to the treatment or procedure the patient is seeking;
  • continue to provide other care to the patient, if they wish;
  • refrain from expressing their own personal beliefs to the patient in a way that may cause them distress;
  • inform their employer, or prospective employer, of their conscientious objection, and discuss with their employer how they can practise in accordance with their beliefs without compromising patient care or placing a burden on their colleagues; and
  • always provide medically appropriate treatment in an emergency situation, even if that treatment conflicts with their personal beliefs and values. 

Changes since 2013

The tone and emphasis of the Position Statement has been amended. Rather than taking a prescriptive line, the Position Statement now takes a reflective approach where a doctor is asked to focus on what really should matter the most: the impact of their decisions on the patient in front of them.

A new statement has been included that an objecting doctor should be aware that certain treatments or procedures are time critical.

A new section on institutional conscientious objection has been included. It advises institutions that do not provide particular treatments or procedures due to institutional conscientious objection to inform the public of this so (potential) patients can seek care elsewhere. This section also advocates that a doctor working within such an institution should be allowed to refer a patient (already admitted) who seeks such a service to another doctor outside the facility.

The AMA Position Statement on Conscientious Objection 2019 is at https://ama.com.au/position-statement/conscientious-objection-2019


CONTACT:        John Flannery                     02 6270 5477 / 0419 494 761

                            Maria Hawthorne               02 6270 5478 / 0427 209 753

The CCRL Participates In Ontario Court of Appeal with Oral Arguments in Support of Physicians’ Conscience Rights

News Release

Catholic Civil Rights League

Toronto, ON January 25, 2019 – The Catholic Civil Rights League (CCRL) participated with oral arguments in the CMDS et al v. CPSO hearing at the Ontario Court of Appeal on January 21 and 22. Individual Catholic and Christian doctors and organizations had challenged the College of Physicians and Surgeons of Ontario (CPSO), which over the course of the past three years had stipulated an “effective referral” regime, forcing Ontario doctors who objected to morally objectionable procedures to provide an “effective referral” to a willing doctor for such services. Previously, doctors were relieved from any such obligation. Ontario is the only provincial or territorial jurisdiction which has made such demands of its doctors.

The Ontario Divisional Court had ruled in favour of the CPSO, on January 31, 2018, despite finding that the religious freedom of doctors had been infringed. The appellants and the League, in conjunction with the Faith and Freedom Alliance and the Protection of Conscience Project, had argued that such “effective referrals” made objecting doctors complicit in the provision of the objectionable procedures, such as abortion, or assisted suicide. The previous court decision allowed the infringement as a modest incursion into the rights of physicians, in the context of the ability of patients to access publicly available “services”. Moreover, the court previously ruled that objecting physicians could re-arrange their practice specialties to “accommodate” such referrals. The doctors and their respective organizations appealed.

In addition to the arguments presented by the lawyers for the appellants, the CCRL and its partners raised the particular arguments that such demands were in breach of the conscience rights of Ontario doctors, as forcing individuals to do something that they considered “wrong”, and was a form of enforced servitude.

Click here to view the CCRL’s written factum, submitted in November 2018, which made reference to important principles of law and philosophy, quoting Martin Luther King Jr., Jacques Maritain, and others.

At the appeal hearings, held at Toronto’s Osgoode Hall, arguments focused on whether the CPSO could justify its referral policy as a “reasonable limit” on the rights of objecting doctors. The CCRL’s lawyer, Mr. Emrys Davis, submitted that moral rights are central to one’s sense of human dignity, and that it was unacceptable to marginalize objecting physicians as religious extremists. Moreover, given that the Ontario Medical Association likewise opposed the “effective referral” regime, such concerns were shared by a large numbers of Ontario doctors. The CCRL and its partners argued that the referral requirement imposed the values of the state upon individuals, forcing them to violate their own constitutionally protected consciences, without justification.

The CPSO’s lawyers had suggested that objecting doctors could go so far as to instruct an intake employee to make the proposed referrals on their behalf. We argued that such doctors would still be responsible morally to such a proposal, and would be left with no meaningful choice. Telling an employee to commit an immoral act would still offend the consciences of objecting doctors. The choice imposed by the CPSO was either to violate one’s conscience, or become subject to professional discipline for refusing to make such referrals.

In his closing remarks, Chief Justice of Ontario George Strathy thanked the many interveners for bringing their unique viewpoints and knowledge to the assistance of the court, which reserved its decision to a later date. The CCRL thanks the fine work of our lawyers at Bennett, Jones in Toronto, for its efforts on behalf of our interveners.


About the CCRL

Catholic Civil Rights League (CCRL) (www.ccrl.ca) assists in creating conditions within which Catholic teachings can be better understood, cooperates with other organizations in defending civil rights in Canada, and opposes defamation and discrimination against Catholics on the basis of their beliefs. The CCRL was founded in 1985 as an independent lay organization with a large nationwide membership base. The CCRL is a Canadian non-profit organization entirely supported by the generosity of its members.

To donate to the CCRL, please click here.

For further information: Christian Domenic Elia, PhD CCRL Executive Director 416-466-8244 @CCRLtweets

Protection of Conscience at the Ontario Court of Appeal

News Release

Protection of Conscience Project

On 21/21 January the Protection of Conscience Project jointly intervened at the Court of Appeal of Ontario to support freedom of conscience against an oppressive policy of Ontario’s state medical regulator, the College of Physicians and Surgeons of Ontario (CPSO). CPSO policies demand that physicians who object to morally contested procedures – including euthanasia and assisted suicide – must help patients find a colleague willing to provide the contested services.

The Court was hearing the appeal of the Christian Medical and Dental Society of Canada, the Canadian Federation of Catholic Physicians’ Societies, Canadian Physicians for Life and five individual physicians against an Ontario Divisional Court decision . The Divisional Court had ruled in favour of the CPSO, ruling, in effect, that physicians unwilling to do what they believed to be wrong by providing “effective referrals” were free to move to medical specialties where they would not face conflicts of conscience.

Expert evidence from the appellants indicated that it is extremely difficult for physicians to retrain, and that only 2.5 per cent of all physician positions in Canada would be “safe” for objecting physicians: pathology, hair loss, obesity medicine, sleep disorders and research were among the few available specialities.

The appellants’ submissions were supported by the intervention of the Ontario Medical Association, representing more than 41,000 practising and retired physicians, medical students and residents.

Joining the Project as “Conscience Interveners” were the Catholic Civil Rights League and Faith and Freedom Alliance. The joint submission noted the difference between perfective freedom of conscience (doing what one believes to be good) and preservative freedom of conscience (refusing to do what one believes to be wrong), a distinction hitherto ignored in judicial analysis.

Acknowledging that freedom of conscience can be limited to safeguard the common good, the Conscience Interveners argued that it does not follow that limits on perfective and preservative freedom of conscience can be justified on the same grounds or to the same extent.

The joint intervention drew the Court’s attention to the opinion of Supreme Court Justice Bertha Wilson in R v. Morgentaler, the only extended discussion of freedom of conscience in Canadian jurisprudence. Justice Wilson’s reasoning drew upon the key principle that humans are not a means to an end, and we should never be exploited by someone as a tool to serve someone else’s good – a principle championed by people like Martin Luther King Jr.

This principle – identified as the principle against servitude – was proposed as a principle of fundamental justice, a novel and constitutionally significant assertion. Alternatively, the Conscience Interveners argued that the principle against servitude is so foundational to human rights and freedoms it is difficult to imagine how violating it might be justified.

Forcing someone to participate in perceived wrongdoing demands the submission of intellect, will, and conscience, and violates the principle against servitude by reducing that person to the status of a tool to be used by others. This manner of servitude cannot be reconciled with principles of equality. It is an assault on human dignity that deprives physicians of their essential humanity.

Factum of the Conscience Interveners

The Evangelical Fellowship of Canada, B’nai Brith, and the Justice Centre for Constitutional Freedoms intervened in support of the physician appellants. Dying With Dignity Canada and the Canadian Civil Liberties Association intervened against them.

The Court reserved its decision.

Related: CCRL news release

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