Canadian protection of conscience bill progresses

David Anderson, M.P.

Two years ago, taking a patient’s life was culpable homicide. Although the law now permits physician assisted suicide, many doctors’ consciences will not. The Supreme Court of Canada has explicitly said that the legalization of euthanasia did not entail a duty of physicians to provide it.

However, regional associations have introduced regulations compelling conscientiously objecting physicians to provide effective referrals for physician assisted suicide, contravening this assurance. This happens, without any penalty.

I believe it’s time to stand up for doctors and health care providers who aren’t willing to leave their core ethics behind when they’re at a patient’s bedside. The protection of conscience rights for medical professionals is part of protecting the fundamental freedom of conscience and religion guaranteed to all Canadians in the Charter of Rights and Freedoms.

Bill C-418 amends the Criminal Code to make it an offence to intimidate a medical practitioner, nurse practitioner, pharmacist or any other health care professional for compelling them to take part, directly or indirectly, in the provision of medical assistance in dying.

It also makes it an offence to dismiss from employment or to refuse to employ a medical practitioner, nurse practitioner, pharmacist or any other health care professional for the reason only that they refuse to take part, directly or indirectly, in the provision of medical assistance in dying.

I expect Bill C-418 will be debated on May 29, 2019.

Click below to view and download materials to spread the word about C-418 and build support for this important legislation:


Click here to download a copy of C-418 (EN/FR)

Click here to download an informational graphic on C-418 with tear-away letter to the Minister of Justice | Français

Click here to download a letter on C-418 which can be sent to your local Member of Parliament | Français

Click here to download a petition on C-418 | Français


Protection of conscience bill passes in Indiana

Sean Murphy*

Indiana Senate Bill 201, proposed by Senator Liz Brown, passed te Indian Senate by a vote of 38-8 and will be sent to Goveror Eric Holcomb for signature. Existing Indiana law protects freedom of conscience for physicians, nurses and institutional employees in relation to surgical abortion. Bill 201 amends the statute to include medical abortion and extends protection to physician assistants and pharmacists.

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]

Doctors to fight new abortion law

Hawthorn Caller

Mike Billings

A group of doctors opposed to abortion say they will fight any moves in looming reforms to erode their rights to refuse to deal with patients wanting abortions. The issue of referring patients seeking abortions to another doctor has drawn opposition from the group.

Justice Minister Andrew Little says he agrees with a Law Commission proposal for doctors who are “conscientious objectors” to abortion to be made to directly refer a patient on to another doctor who they know will provide the service.

Currently, such doctors only have to advise the patient they can get the service elsewhere without specifying where. . . [Full text]

Indiana bill extends conscience protection to medical abrtions

Sean Murphy*

Indiana Senate Bill 201, proposed by Senator Liz Brown, has been amended in committee and is progressing through the Indiana General Assembly. Existing Indiana law protects freedom of conscience for physicians, nurses and institutional employees in relation to surgical abortion. Bill 201 amends the statute to include medical abortion and extends protection to physician assistants and pharmacists.

Victoria’s voluntary assisted dying law: clinical implementation as the next challenge

Ben P. White, Lindy Willmott, Eliana Close

The Voluntary Assisted Dying Act 2017 (Vic) (VAD Act) will become operational on 19 June, 2019. . . . While some have written on the scope of, and reaction to, the VAD legislation, there has been very little commentary on its implementation. Yet, important choices must be made about translating these laws into clinical practice. These choices have major implications for doctors and other health professionals (including those who choose not to facilitate VAD), patients, hospitals and other health providers. This article considers some key challenges in implementing Victoria’s VAD legislation.


White BP, Willmott L, Close E. Victoria’s voluntary assisted dying law: clinical implementation as the next challenge. Med J Australia. 2019 Mar;210(5):207-209.e1

Consent not a defence, court tells body modification artist

BioEdge

Michael Cook

Dr. Evil, a British body modification artist, has been found guilty of three counts of grievous bodily harm for tongue-splitting and nipple removal despite the fact that his clients consented to the procedures.

The argument put forward in court by Dr Evil, aka Brendan McCarthy, was strongly supported in the community. A petition with 13,400 signatures argued “for the right to express ourselves in whatever modified manner we wish in a safe environment”.

Judge Amjad Nawaz ruled that the kind of radical procedures in which Dr Evil specialised were not analogous to tattoos and piercings. . .[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

New hope for Ontario doctors’ conscience fight

The Catholic Register

Michael Swan

New evidence heard in court has given Ontario’s medical conscientious objectors renewed hope.

Two days of hearings before the Ontario Court of Appeal Jan. 21-22 has provided Christian Medical and Dental Society (CMDS) executive director Deacon Larry Worthen a dollop of confidence as he waits for a decision from the three-judge panel.

“We gave a very good presentation,” Worthen told The Catholic Register after the appeal. “There were some new arguments. There was new evidence.”

The three-judge panel’s ruling has been reserved, with observers expecting a decision in March. . . [Full text]

New hope for Ontario doctors’ conscience fight

The Catholic Register

Michael Swan

New evidence heard in court has given Ontario’s medical conscientious objectors renewed hope.

Two days of hearings before the Ontario Court of Appeal Jan. 21-22 has provided Christian Medical and Dental Society (CMDS) executive director Deacon Larry Worthen a dollop of confidence as he waits for a decision from the three-judge panel. . . Full Text