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

Nurses and Midwives for Life Ireland Letter to Irish Health Minister

Dear Mr. Harris,

We are dedicated, hardworking nurses and midwives who care for patients from conception to natural death. We have a conscientious commitment to life which accords with the values inherent in Our Code of Professional Conduct and Ethics. We respect and defend the dignity of every stage of human life and we have a responsibility to make every valid or reasonable effort to protect the life and health of pregnant women and their unborn babies.

We are extremely concerned that the Health (Regulation of Termination of Pregnancy) Bill 2018, in particular, Part 3 Section 24 (3)*, will seriously impact on our ability to practise. In 2018 two Scottish midwives Mary Doogan and Connie Wood were forced to quit their jobs when they refused to oversee abortions. For the first time this legislation, which differs from the 2013 Act, will permit the intentional ending of the life of the unborn child up to birth. For us as nurses and midwives participation in termination of pregnancy defined in relation to a pregnant woman, as a medical procedure which is intended to end the life of a foetus, is morally objectionable and conflicts with our conscientious commitment to life.

Participation includes any supervision, delegation, planning or supporting of staff involved in termination of pregnancy. We do not want to be discriminated against by our employers or victimised as employees if we exercise our right to freedom of conscience.

We are in the midst of an unprecedented crisis in the Health Service and as yet there has been no effort made by you as Minister for Health to consult the nursing or midwifery professions on the clinical implications of this bill.

We are calling on you as Minister for Health:

(a) to consult our professions in relation to this legislation and

(b) to support the amendments that have been tabled to protect our right to freedom of conscience so we will not be forced out of our professions.

Yours sincerely,

Margaret McGovern RGN Vice Chair,
Catherina O’Sullivan RPN Secretary,
Fiona McHugh, Clinical Paediatric Nurse Specialist
PRO and Nurses and Midwives for Life Ireland

*Section 24 (3) A person who has a conscientious objection referred to in subsection (1) shall, as soon as may be, make such arrangements for the transfer of care of the pregnant woman concerned as may be necessary to enable the woman to avail of the termination of pregnancy concerned.

New Zealand College of GPs does not endorse euthanasia: opposes coerced referral

College of GPs does not endorse euthanasia or physician-assisted suicide: response to call for submissions on End of Life Choice Bill

News Release

For immediate release

Royal New Zealand College of General Practitioners

The Royal New Zealand College of General Practitioners has submitted its response to the Justice Committee of Parliament today (6 March 2018). The submission is clear that the College does not endorse euthanasia or physician-assisted suicide, which it considers a matter for individual members’ consciences, within the law.

The submission makes 17 recommendations to the Justice Committee, in light of the state of palliative care in New Zealand, the effect legislation may have on vulnerable people, and the effect euthanasia and physician-assisted suicide has on the doctor-patient relationship. The submission also goes into detail to recommend changes to specific challenges the Bill, as drafted, poses. That includes criteria for assisted dying, conscientious objection, and the role of the medical practitioner.

Dr Tim Malloy, President of the Royal New Zealand College of General Practitioners, said:

“Whether for or against euthanasia, the College’s members are motivated by compassion – this is a key tenet of the profession. We believe that each general practitioner in New Zealand will have their own ethical view on whether euthanasia or physician-assisted suicide is right.

“However, whether or not this Bill goes ahead, there are significant challenges that must be addressed. Fundamentally, New Zealanders need accessible, good quality palliative care. The Government should strengthen these services, so we can all experience a dignified, comfortable death.

“The College has made several recommendations to the Justice Committee for its consideration on the Bill itself. The Bill, currently, has poorly defined criteria for assisted dying. Diagnosis is difficult, we sometimes get a diagnosis wrong. And knowing if a patient is able to make a rational decision, during their end of life care, can be incredibly difficult.

“Parliament should consider our 17 recommendations carefully, given the strong apprehension from general practitioners about legalising euthanasia and physician-assisted suicide.”


Background

General practice is a medical speciality, and general practitioners (GPs) treat patients of all ages, from neonates to elderly, across the course of their lives. GPs make up 40 percent of the medical workforce.

The Royal New Zealand College of General Practitioners is the professional body for GPs, and is the largest medical college in the country. The College’s mission is improving the health of all New Zealanders.

The College’s submission to the Justice Committee can be read on its website. The College has also submitted a compilation of members’ submissions.

The recommendations are:

1. The Government improves and strengthens palliative care services for all New Zealanders.

2. The Government provides more financial support for families caring for a family member at the end of their life.

3. The Government invests in ensuring Māori have access to culturally appropriate palliative care.

4. The Government implements a public information campaign to ensure New Zealanders understand what euthanasia and physician-assisted suicide are, who would be eligible for it, and the wider implications of any legalisation before the Bill progresses further through Parliament. This would be of particular importance if the Government holds a referendum on this issue.

5. The Government invests more money in mental health services.

The following recommendations apply if the law is changed:

6. The Bill specifically prevents people with mental health conditions from qualifying for euthanasia or physician-assisted suicide.

7. The Select Committee carefully considers the scope of medical practitioners and minimum practice experience of the practitioners who would offer euthanasia or physician-assisted suicide services.

8. The Bill requires that medical practitioners receive appropriate training and support to enable them to provide quality advice and care to patients and their families.

9. The minimum age of eligibility for euthanasia be set at 25 years.

10. The Bill’s eligibility criteria are reconsidered to tighten the definition of who is eligible for euthanasia and for physician-assisted suicide.

11. The Bill’s introduction be amended to remove the requirement for medical practitioners who do not wish to participate in euthanasia to refer patients to the SCENZ Group.

12. Patients seeking euthanasia or physician-assisted suicide be obliged to self-refer to the SCENZ register in the first instance to consult with a registered medical professional who is trained and willing to provide physician-assisted suicide and euthanasia services.

13. Clause 8 be amended to recognise the difficulties of making accurate prognoses and to clarify whether medical practitioners’ advice to patients is limited to medical impacts.

14. The Select Committee considers how to deal with situations where a patient with reduced decision-making capacity wishes to forgo the Advanced Care Plan made when they were mentally competent.

15. Clause 15 be amended to make it explicitly clear if the Bill refers to euthanasia or physician-assisted suicide, and if both, when the legislation applies to either option.

16. The Select Committee considers the complexities of euthanasia and/or physician-assisted suicide if something goes wrong.

17. Clause 19 be amended to ensure the privacy and confidentiality of the medical professionals who elect to perform euthanasia or provide physician-assisted suicide.

Professor David Oderberg joins Protection of Conscience Project Advisory Board

News Release   

For immediate release

Protection of Conscience Project

The Protection of Conscience Project welcomes David S. Oderberg, Professor of Philosophy at the University of Reading, UK to the Project Advisory Board. Professor Oderberg joined the university after completing his doctorate at Oxford in the early 1990s. He is the author of many articles in metaphysics, ethics, philosophy of religion, philosophy of science, and other areas. He is also the author of several books including Moral Theory and Applied Ethics (Blackwell, 2000) as well as co-editor of collections in ethics such as Human Values: New Essays on Ethics and Natural Law (Palgrave, 2004) and Human Lives: New Essays on Non-Consequentialist Bioethics (Palgrave, 1997).

Prof. Oderberg has been working on freedom of conscience in health care over the last few years, with a recent article in the Journal of Medical Ethics on co-operation, and a forthcoming policy monograph to be published by the Institute of Economic Affairs. He is Editor of Ratio, an international journal of analytic philosophy, and Senior Fellow of the Higher Education Academy. In 2013 he delivered the Hourani Lectures in Ethics at SUNY Buffalo, and has a book forthcoming based on those lectures, to be called The Metaphysics of Good and Evil. [Faculty Profile] [Website]

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


The Protection of Conscience Project is a non-profit, non-denominational initiative that advocates for freedom of conscience in health care. The Project does not take a position on the morality or acceptability of morally contested procedures. Since 1999, the Project has been supporting health care workers who want to provide the best care  for their patients without violating their own personal and professional integrity. 

 

 

Protection of Conscience Project welcomes new advisor from Scotland

News Release
For immediate release

Protection of Conscience Project

The Protection of Conscience Project welcomes Dr. Mary Neal, PhD, LLB Honours, LLM to the Project Advisory Board. Dr. Neal is Senior Lecturer in Law, University of Strathclyde, Glasgow.  She researches, writes, and teaches in the fields of Healthcare Law and Bioethics, focusing on beginning and end-of-life issues.  In 2014-15, she was Adviser to the Scottish Parliamentary Committee scrutinising the Assisted Suicide (Scotland) Bill, and she is a current member [2018] of the British Medical Association’s Medical Ethics Committee. She has published a wide range of academic articles and blogs on a range of topics including, most recently, conscientious objection by healthcare professionals; the nature of ‘proper medical treatment’; the role of the emotions in end-of-life decision-making; and the conceptual structure and content of human dignity.

Dr. Neal was a co-editor of and contributor to the recent volume Ethical Judgments: Re-writing Medical Law (Hart, 2017). Her works-in-progress include articles and book chapters on conscientious objection; the idea of ‘vulnerability’ in healthcare; physician-assisted suicide; and the role of dignity in human rights discourse. Among other research activities, Dr. Neal is currently leading two funded projects relevant to the issue of conscientious objection in healthcare. One is a British Academy/Leverhulme-funded project exploring conflicts between personal values and professional expectations in pharmacy practice. The other is a multi-disciplinary network of academics and healthcare professionals (the ‘Accommodating Conscience Research Network’, or ‘ACoRN’), funded by the Royal Society of Edinburgh, and beginning with a series of roundtables exploring various aspects of conscientious objection in healthcare. Dr Neal is also a spokesperson for the Free Conscience campaign supporting the Conscientious Objection (Medical Activities) Bill currently before the UK Parliament.[Faculty Profile]

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


The Protection of Conscience Project is a non-profit, non-denominational initiative that advocates for freedom of conscience in health care. The Project does not take a position on the morality or acceptability of morally contested procedures. Since 1999, the Project has been supporting health care workers who want to provide the best care  for their patients without violating their own personal and professional integrity. 

International constitutional and human rights lawyer joins Protection of Conscience Project Advisory Board

News release 

For immediate release

Protection of Conscience Project

The Protection of Conscience Project welcomes Dr. Iain Benson, Professor of Law, University of Notre Dame Australia, Sydney and Extraordinary Professor of Law, University of the Free State, Bloemfontein South Africa to the Project Advisory Board.

Born in Edinburgh, Scotland, the father of seven children, Professor Benson is an academic, lecturer and practising lawyer specialising in pluralism and human rights.  His particular focus is on freedoms of association, conscience and religion, the nature of pluralism, multi-culturalism and relationships between law, religion and culture. He has been involved in many of the leading cases on rights of association, conscience and religion in Canada and abroad for two decades.  As a barrister he has appeared before all levels of court and his work has been cited by the Supreme Court of Canada and the Constitutional Court of South Africa.

He was one of the drafters of the South African Charter of Religious Rights and Freedoms (signed by all major religions in that country in September 2010) and remains closely involved in advancing the Charter in that country and similar projects elsewhere.

Author of over 40 academic articles and book chapters, he is co-editor with Barry W. Bussey, of Religion Liberty and the Jurisdictional Limits of Law (Toronto: Lexis Nexis, 2017) and authored Living Together with Disagreement: Pluralism, the Secular and the Fair Treatment of Beliefs by Law (Ballan Australia: Connor Court, 2012). His scholarly work is referred to in many books and articles.

He teaches Legal Philosophy, Legal History, Public International Law, Human Rights and Contemporary Legal Issues. He works in English and French, dividing his time between Australia (where he now lives) and France, South Africa and Canada (in the latter two of which he has appointments).[Faculty profile]

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


The Protection of Conscience Project is a non-profit, non-denominational initiative that advocates for freedom of conscience in health care. The Project does not take a position on the morality or acceptability of morally contested procedures. Since 1999, the Project has been supporting health care workers who want to provide the best care  for their patients without violating their own personal and professional integrity. 

Catholic Medical Association Joins with 25,000 Physicians Fighting Proposed Global Abortion Policy to Strip Conscience Rights Protections

News Release

Catholic Medical Association

PHILADELPHIA, PA – FEBRUARY 12, 2018 – Conscience rights protections for health care providers in the U.S. and abroad are once again under attack. The World Medical Association (WMA) representing 10 million physicians worldwide is poised to approve a policy that would demand doctors refer for abortion, even against their conscience.

Although current federal statutes in the U.S. protect health care provider’s conscience rights and prohibit recipients of certain federal funds from discriminating against health care providers, WMA ethics policies greatly impact future regulations of the medical profession globally.

The WMA was founded in 1947 in response to Nazi atrocities during WW II. The organization promotes itself as “evaluating and codifying ethics in healthcare.” Currently the WMA policy requires doctors ensure continuity of care for patients who choose abortion, but not force doctors refer for the procedure. However, the WMA’s proposed revision threatens the conscience rights of all physicians and health care professionals by proposing the following amendment:

“Individual doctors have a right to conscientious objection to providing abortion, but that right does not entitle them to impede or deny access to lawful abortion services because it delays care for women, putting their health and life at risk. In such cases, the physician must refer the woman to a willing and trained health professional in the same, or another easily accessible health-care facility, in accordance with national law. Where referral is not possible, the physician who objects, must provide safe abortion or perform whatever procedure is necessary to save the woman’s life and to prevent serious injury to her health.”

The proposed changes in policy would also eliminate the provision that “requires the physician to maintain respect for human life.”

“We do not believe abortion is healthcare. The international impact on this global abortion policy is incalculable,” said CMA President Dr. Peter T. Morrow. “We join with the representatives of over 25,000 physicians, nurses, health care providers and patient advocates who provide excellent, scientific, ethical and moral healthcare in accordance with the principles of the Oath of Hippocrates. Collectively we request that the WMA’s revision be rejected, it is subversive of physician freedom of conscience concerning abortion in the short term, and euthanasia and assisted suicide in the long term.”

The American Medical Association (AMA) is an associate member of the WMA and can recommend rejections and or revisions.  The CMA supports conscience rights of all healthcare professionals with regards to abortion as well as physician assisted suicide, and is jointly sending a letter co-written by: American Association of Pro-Life Obstetricians and Gynecologists, American College of Pediatricians, Christian Medical & Dental Associations, National Association of Catholic Nurses-U.S.A. and The National Catholic Bioethics Center to the AMA strongly denouncing the WMA’s proposed change forcing physicians to violate their conscience rights.

The WMA’s proposed changes could become a global policy. The general assembly is scheduled to vote in October.

Contact:

Susanne LaFrankie, MA
Diector of Communications
email: lafrankie@cathmed.org


The Catholic Medical Association is a national, physician-led community of over 2,400 health care professionals. CMA’s mission is to inform, organize, and inspire its members, to uphold the principles of the Catholic faith in the science and practice of medicine.