Protecting The Right to Conscientious Objection

Reproduced with permission

Kelvin Goertzen, MLA

In 2015 the Supreme Court of Canada ruled that Canadians could access a medical assisted death with the help of a physician. As part of that decision, the Supreme Court tasked Parliament with developing the legislative framework by which the medical assisted death (otherwise known as MAID) could happen in Canada.

The decision has resulted in a number of different concerns regarding the right to conscientious objection for medical professionals and others. As Minister of Health for Manitoba over the past year, I have heard from many in the healthcare profession who are concerned that they may in the future be required to participate in a MAID procedure as a requirement of their occupation.

While the provincial governments have been mandated by the Supreme Court decision to ensure there is access to MAID, they also have a responsibility to ensure that those who are unable to participate in a medically assisted death due to their personal beliefs or values have protection.

That is why during this past session of the Manitoba Legislature, I introduced Bill 34 (currently in second reading) which is about providing protection to medical professionals and others who may not want to participate, for whatever reason, in a medical assisted death. There was no robust legislation in Manitoba or anywhere else that protected medical professionals so that they would not be required to act in a medical assisted death. Not just doctors, but nurses and other health professionals have asked for legislative means to ensure that this protection exists, not just for today but for the future as well.

The legislation would ensure that now and into the future, an individual could refuse to participate in a medically assisted death without any disciplinary or employment repercussions. It also prohibits a professional regulatory body from requiring its members to participate in a medically assisted death.

In Manitoba we have been a leader in ensuring that a balance is struck between meeting the legal responsibilities flowing from the Supreme Court of Canada and Parliament’s subsequent action and ensuring that medical professionals are able to also act in a way that is in keeping with their own personal convictions and the purpose for which they entered the medical field. The work of the individual professional colleges in Manitoba has been helpful to date in working to protect the rights of medical professionals and the legislation which I have introduced will help to support that work.

I look forward to this legislation being further considered in the fall session of the Manitoba Legislature and to ensuring that medical professionals have their conscientious rights protected.



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