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

Canada’s bishops allow Catholic hospitals to host consultations for euthanasia

LifeSite News

Lianne Laurence

OTTAWA, April 18, 2019 (LifeSiteNews) – Canada’s bishops were consulted on and agreed to secret guidelines by Catholic health sponsors that allow third-party euthanasia assessments of medically frail patients in Catholic health care facilities, LifeSiteNews has learned.

And while the Catholic health sponsors who drafted the guidelines in collaboration with ethicists and bishops concluded such assessments were not formal cooperation with evil, they failed to consider there are instances when material cooperation is gravely wrong, as is the case here, says Catholic moral theologian, Dr. E. Christian Brugger. . . [Full text]

Pope Francis: Freedom of conscience in danger in ‘Christian countries’

Catholic News Service

Courtney Grogan

Rome, Italy, Mar 31, 2019 / 03:45 pm (CNA).- Pope Francis decried the regression of freedom of conscience in “Christian countries” during an in-flight press conference Sunday, telling reporters on his return trip from Morocco, “let’s not accuse Muslims”.

When asked by a French reporter about a criminal law in Morocco that prohibits enticing a Muslim to convert to another religion, Francis responded, “Let’s not accuse Muslims. Let’s accuse also ourselves.”

“Today, we Christians have the danger that some governments will take away our freedom of conscience, which is the first step toward freedom of worship,” Pope Francis said March 31.

“Think of the Christian doctors and hospital institutions that do not have the right of conscientious objection, for example, for euthanasia. How? The Church has moved on and you Christian countries go backwards?” he told the French reporter. . . [Full text]

Bishops condemn bills to expand abortion, repeal conscience protection

Catholic News Service

Jacob Comello

The bishops from Illinois’ six dioceses March 28 made a decisive stand against state legislators’ efforts to remove all abortion restrictions in the state, as well as the right of physicians to object to the practice.

At a news conference livestreamed from the Illinois Capitol in Springfield, Catholic Conference of Illinois Director Bob Gilligan told reporters on no uncertain terms that “we are here today to oppose these bills.”

. . . The Senate and House bills Gilligan is referring to are S.B. 1942 and H.B. 2495. Either, if passed, would greatly alter current Illinois law. . . . [Full text]

Bolivian Catholic Bishops comment on freedom of conscience and religion

Assert right to conscientious objection

Sean Murphy*

The Conference of Catholic Bishops of Bolivia have published a statement commenting favourably on changes to Bolivia’s law on freedom of conscience and religion. However, they criticize the failure to recognize a right to conscientious objection, referring to a physician in Sucre who is being disciplined for refusing to provide an abortion.

“[W]e have expressed on several occasions the need to recognize in Bolivia the right to conscientious objection, in this and other matters, because we consider first order safeguarding individual and thought freedom and because no one should be forced to act against their conscience.”

The right to conscientious objection

Catholic hospital group sued for refusing transgender hysterectomy

Cathoic News Agency

San Francisco, Calif., Mar 25, 2019 / 02:00 pm (CNA).- A group of five Catholic hospitals in California is being sued by a woman who identifies as a transgender man after one of its locations, St. Joseph Hospital, Eureka, refused to perform a hysterectomy.

Oliver Knight is suing St. Joseph Health of Northern California, alleging that she was refused the surgery because of her “gender orientation.”

The suit was filed in the Humboldt County Superior Court on Thursday, March 21. In the lawsuit, Knight says that workers at the hospital canceled the surgery because she identifies as transgender. . . [Full text]

Holy See: freedom of religion – “litmus test”of other human rights

Vatican News

Robin Gomes

Archbishop Ivan Jurkovič, Holy See’s Permanent Observer to the Human Rights Council in Geneva on March 5 attended a meeting on freedom of religion of belief.

The Holy See is reiterating its advocacy of the universal and unbiased application of the fundamental right to freedom of religion or belief saying it is the “litmus test of all other human rights”. . .

. . . The Holy See diplomat observed that increasing calls to restrict the right of conscientious objection, indicate that some politicians and even some quarters of international agencies, forgetting their nature and mandate, are still uncomfortable with the right of freedom of conscience and belief. . . [Full text]

State hospitals must provide abortion if Catholic clinics will not – report

Patient’s life must take precedence over ethos in emergencies, says report

The Irish Times

Paul Cullen

State-owned hospitals should provide abortions in situations where neighbouring Catholic institutions are unwilling to do so, a new report suggests. . . the report says it is clear there will be situations where abortions have to be carried out in acute hospitals, rather than maternity units. There are seven Catholic voluntary hospitals in Dublin, Cork and Limerick . . . [Full text]

Labour Court clarifies freedoms of religion and conscience in healthcare sector

Wistrand International Law Office

Jörgen Larsson

Introduction

Sweden is one of the most secular countries in the world with full freedom of religion. Further, freedom of conscience is a right protected by the European Convention on Human Rights (ECHR). However, domestic law recognises no right to conscientious objection. In this respect, Sweden differs from most other European countries.

In 2017 the Labour Court clarified from an employment law perspective whether freedom of conscience gives healthcare professionals a right to conscientious objection.

Facts

A midwife expressed that her religious beliefs forbid her from performing abortion services. When she expressed her opinion, three different healthcare regions in Sweden refused to employ her. The midwife brought the case to the Equality Ombudsman, which found that her refusal to perform abortion services was a manifestation of her religious beliefs and was thus protected by Article 9 of the ECHR. The Equality Ombudsman also found that the healthcare regions’ requirement that the midwife perform abortion services was reasonable and motivated by social interests in order to secure women’s effective access to abortion services. Therefore, the midwife’s freedom of religion had not been violated. . . . Full Text