Physicians and the Ontario Human Rights Code

The following post is from the College of Physicians and Surgeons of Ontario, the state regulatory authority for the practice of medicine in the province:

The College’s Physicians and the Ontario Human Rights Code policy is currently being reviewed. This policy sets out physicians’ legal obligations under the Ontario Human Rights Code (the Code) and the College’s expectations that physicians will respect the fundamental rights of those who seek their medical services. It aims to assist the profession in understanding its existing legal and professional obligations, and provide physicians with guidance about how to comply with these obligations in everyday practice.

View the current policy

To assist with this review, we are inviting feedback from all stakeholders, including members of the medical profession, the public, health system organizations and other health professionals on the current policy. Comments received during this preliminary consultation will assist the College in updating the policy. When a revised draft is developed, it will be recirculated for further comment before it is finalized by Council.

Submissions must be received by 5 August, 2014.

See the full notice on the College website.  It includes a “quickpoll” survey asking visitors to vote for or against freedom of conscience for physicians.

Therapeutic homicide in a neonatal unit?

The Mary Dilemma: Case Study on Moral Distress

Sean Murphy

The Canadian Fellowship of Catholic Scholars Journal published  an article in late 2013 about the moral distress suffered by a Catholic nurse who witnessed the death of a newborn infant. The baby was allegedly starved to death in a neonatal intensive care unit at a Toronto hospital between 27 October and 22 November, presumably in 2012 or earlier. . .The Journal article does not disclose the names of the hospital or the people involved “for reasons of confidentiality”. . . While the Journal article raises very interesting questions from the perspective of freedom of conscience and religion for health care workers, it is prudent to withhold further comment on the allegations until it is clear what action, if any, will be undertaken by state authorities in the Province of Ontario.
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The Mary dilemma – A case study on moral distress

Newborn infant starved to death in Toronto hospital

One of the nurses who was caring for her today looked at me with tears in her eyes and said “this is not right – if they took  her home and didn’t feed her they would be charged – why is it okay for us to do this?”

Fr. Michael Della Penna, ofm*  and Francisca Burg-Feret*

This paper begins with a case study describing the perspective of a Catholic nurse who experienced moral distress while observing the tragic death of a newborn infant named Baby Mary. The purpose of this paper is to raise awareness and educate readers about the concept of  moral distress and promote a greater understanding of the lived experience of Catholic health care providers who undergo this trauma. It also provides an analysis and some recommendations for practice that can help health care professionals make good ethical choices in difficult situations based on their faith.
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Entrenching a ‘duty to do wrong’ in medicine

Canadian government funds project to suppress freedom of conscience and religion

 Sean Murphy*

A 25 year old woman who went to an Ottawa walk-in clinic for a birth control prescription was told that the physician offered only Natural Family Planning and did not prescribe or refer for contraceptives or related services. She was given a letter explaining that his practice reflected his “medical judgment” and “professional ethical concerns and religious values.” She obtained her prescription at another clinic about two minutes away and posted the physician’s letter on Facebook. The resulting crusade against the physician and two like-minded colleagues spilled into mainstream media and earned a blog posting by Professor Carolyn McLeod on Impact Ethics.

Professor McLeod objects to the physicians’ practice for three reasons. First: it implies – falsely, in her view – that there are medical reasons to prefer natural family planning to manufactured contraceptives. Second, she claims that refusing to refer for contraceptives and abortions violates a purported “right” of access to legal services. Third, she insists that the physician should have met the patient to explain himself, and then helped her to obtain contraception elsewhere by referral. Along the way, she criticizes Dr. Jeff Blackmer of the Canadian Medical Association (CMA) for failing to denounce the idea that valid medical judgement could provide reasons to refuse to prescribe contraceptives. . .
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Physicians in Ottawa under attack for refusing to prescribe contraceptives

A 25 year old woman went to a walk-in clinic in Ottawa, Ontario, to get a prescription for birth control pills.  She was advised the physician on duty did not prescribe contraceptives, and was given a letter stating that for reasons of  “medical judgment as well as professional ethical concerns and religious values” he would assist patients only with Natural Family Planning.  She declined to return the next day to see another physician, and drove around the block to another clinic about two minutes away.  She posted the letter on Facebook, which resulted in a campaign against three Ottawa physicians who decline to provide contraceptives.

Outraged Facebookers called the physician a “jerk,” a “complete anachronism,” “disgusting,” incompetent, “unethical and unprofessional,” a “worthless piece of ____,” a “crummy doctor,” “an idiot,” and described him as – judgemental.

“Goofballs like this,” wrote one, “are the best walking arguments for the birth control they don’t believe in.”

“He should move to the states, or maybe Dubai, where he will be among his own kind.”

One Facebooker suggested that women should go to the clinic to make gratuitous requests for prescriptions, apparently for the purpose of fabricating complaints against the physician: “I think that women should start going in looking for prescriptions for The Pill. You know, just a top up till their family doctor can see them again.”

 

 

Project Submission to the College of Physicians and Surgeons of Ontario

Re: Physicians and the Ontario Human Rights Code

(11 September, 2008)

Nurses Triumphant! Human Rights Case Ends in Settlement

After a difficult five year struggle, eight Ontario health care professionals win the right to choose.

Markham-Stoufville, Ontario, Canada

Sue Careless*

Staff with religious objections will not be required to provide primary nursing care to a patient admitted for an abortion, but could be required to provide post-abortion nursing care. They would not, however, have to in any way participate “in the administration, monitoring or documenting of the pregnancy termination process.”

They did it!

After a five year battle, eight Ontario nurses won the right to refuse to assist in abortions at the Markham-Stoufville Hospital, just outside Toronto. The nurses had taken their fight to the Ontario Human Rights Commission, and one nurse, Ailene George, had filed a civil suit.

They hope their victory will be precedent-setting. “I want all nurses in the future to have the right to say, “No,” said Joanne Van Halteren, one of the eight. “This will have a ripple effect.”

The case was to be heard by the OHRC, but the sides reached a mediated settlement April 13 in which the hospital issued a policy respecting the nurses’ religious objections to performing abortions.

. . . The nurses’ battle took its toll. One nurse, Ann Mahon, died of cancer in May 1998. Others suffered stress-related illnesses. Una Clennon had a lump removed from her breast that her doctor believed was brought on by stress. [Full text]

 

Hospital Restricts Nurses’ Freedom of Conscience

Markham-Stoufville, Ontario, Canada

David Dooley

If the province can spend millions of dollars setting up abortion clinics, Stephens said, it can well afford to hire nurses prepared to take part in abortions, rather than forcing others to go against their consciences. . . . And if hospitals pride themselves on being responsive to the community, this one should make plain how the recent decision was made and why the nurses are under such compulsion.

In a column in the May issue of Thornhill Month, John Stephens asked, “Must it be a matter of either job or conscience?” Until now, he wrote, the Birthplace Unit at the Markham-Stoufville Hospital has been used as the name implies. Now, nurses in the unit who abhor abortions are being told either to assist at these procedures or accept transfer to another department. “For nurses who have developed great skill at the birthing process,” Stephens pointed out, “this means giving up the job they love, and losing the opportunity to practise their expertise. In other circles, this would be called wrongful dismissal.” [Full text]

Sweeney Defends Firings

Transition house workers fired, denied benefits for ‘misconduct’

North Bay, Ontario, Canada

Frank M. Kennedy

The implication of the Minister’s defence is clear. Government-funded  “independent” social agencies, such as homes for battered women, may freely adopt a pro-abortion policy and then dismiss pro-life employees.

The Honourable John Sweeney, Ontario Minister of Community and Social Services, recently defended the dismissal of three pro-life staff workers at the Nipissing Transition House, a home for battered women in North Bay, for refusing to go along with the pro-abortion policy of the board.

Employees fired

Lorainne Carbonneau, married and the mother of three children, was fired on December 23 of last year [after] five years as a full time worker and, at one time, the assistant co-ordinator. She was fired because she would not counsel women for abortions or refer them to any pro-abortion counsellor working at the Nipissing Transition House.

One week later, two others were let go. Carol Baillargeon, a child care worker, and Rae desBlois, a household manager, were both fired over the phone one week after Christmas, also because of their refusal to refer for abortions. There was no other criticism of their employment records. [Full Text]

 

Nurses Fight for Freedom

21 out of 30 paediatric nurses resign

Mississauga, Ontario, Canada

Michael Otis

 “The consequences for not meeting these expectations,” warns Bachle, “will be disciplinary action immediately, up to  and including termination.”

Some Toronto area hospitals are forcing nurses to perform abortions. At a press conference called on February 16 by Nurses for Life, spokeswomen Kathleen Winarski and Helen McGee detailed the situation of nurses who face discrimination or loss of employment for refusing to assist with abortions. In a letter released to the press, Margaret Madill, President of Nurses for Life called upon Health Minister Elinor Caplan to “give nurses the assurance that their personal and/or religious beliefs will not be violated by forced participation in the termination of human life.”

Last month the Paediateric and Gynaecology Departments of Mississauga’s Credit Valley Hospital were amalgamated. From now on, therefore, second trimester abortions will be carried out on the pediatric floor itself, by pediatric nurses. . . . [Full text]