Doctors win right to challenge Royal College of Physicians’ controversial decision to go neutral on assisted suicide

News Release

Dermot Kearney, Kathy Myers, David Randall

A group of doctors have today won the legal right to challenge the Royal College of Physicians’ (RCP) controversial decision to go neutral on assisted suicide after overturning a ruling by the Charity Commission.

The doctors launched their legal action against Britain’s oldest medical group after it announced in March that the college was dropping its long-established opposition to assisted suicide, following a poll requiring a 60 per cent supra-majority.

At the time thousands of doctors voiced their concerns at decision to change the College’s position before consulting members, a failure to follow previous procedure and the unprecedented use of a supra- majority invalidated the poll. However, the RCP decided to press on with the change.

Following this decision, three doctors decided to launch legal action to review the decision and processes used by the College. They argued that the RCP had broken charity law. Despite agreement from the Charity Commission that it was a legally sustainable claim, the charities regulator withheld permission to allow the doctors to progress legal action, as they had already raised their concerns with the RCP and warned them not to repeat these mistakes.

Today, in the High Court, this decision by the Charity Commission has been reversed, giving the doctors a green light to take further action against the RCP.

Dr David Randall, one of the claimants commented: “Today’s judgement is good news for doctors and for society.

We believe that it is vitally important that doctors’ voices are heard on the issue of assisted dying, which if legalised would represent the single biggest change in the ethics and practice of medicine for a generation. The unsatisfactory way in which the College has approached this matter, ignoring the advice of its own ethics committee, has left it with a position of neutrality on assisted dying that prevents it from engaging in the public debate on this important issue. We expect the College to be active in championing key concerns such as the protection of vulnerable patients, the promotion of palliative care and hospice services, and the defence of conscientious objection for all healthcare practitioners. Doctors are not neutral about assisted dying, and neither should the College be.”

Paul Conrathe, Human rights solicitor from Sinclairslaw commented:

 “Today the court expressed its’ concern that the decision of the Royal College of Physicians to change its position to neutrality was unlawful and irrational. It was concerned that the College had adopted as its public position the least favoured option in its recent poll.

The College has suppressed the report of its own ethics committee into the results of the poll and adopted a supra-majority criteria that effectively pre-judged the outcome of that poll. Today the court has paved the way for the College to be brought to account.”

For media inquiries, please contact Alistair Thompson on 07970 162225.

ENDS

Notes to Editors

The Case In 2014 the College polled its member on changing the law on assisted suicide. They that nearly six in 10 (57.5 per cent) opposed any change.

The doctors contend that realising there was no appetite within the membership to support assisted suicide legislation, a small but influential group within the RCP sought to change the stance of the College to ‘neutral’ without consulting its members and then structuring a survey that required an unprecedented 60 per cent supra-majority in favour on continuing opposition to assisted suicide legislation.

Supra-majorities are usually used to prevent long-term constitutional changes being implemented by small but temporary majorities and thus they should always default to the status quo – in this instance opposition to legal change. Using a supra-majority in this consultation makes it almost inevitable that the College will drop its historic opposition to assisted suicide.

Crowdfunder

To help fund this legal challenge, on Friday 1 March, the doctors behind the JR launched a crowdfunder. It has already raised nearly £4,000 in just a few days.

The groups of doctors have made it clear any excess funds will be used at their discretion for related campaigns in opposition to assisted suicide. If there are remaining funds 12months after the conclusion of this case, they will go to the Association for Palliative Medicine.

You can see this here: https://www.gofundme.com/rcp-poll-challenge

Links

  • RCP to poll its members: https://www.rcplondon.ac.uk/news/rcp- poll-its-members-assisted-dying
  • Survey closed at 5pm on 1 March: https://www.rcplondon.ac.uk/news/rcp-poll-its-members- assisted-dying
  • Times covered the row that’s erupted thanks to the poll: https://www.thetimes.co.uk/article/bitter-split-on-assisted- dying-hits-royal-college-of-physicians-vlj38b63w
  • 1,500 doctors back campaign against ‘tacit support’ plan: https://www.express.co.uk/news/uk/1085158/assisted-dying- doctors-plea-campaign-health-debate-for-against-uk-dignitas
  • Judicial Review Crowdfunder: https://www.gofundme.com/rcp-poll- challenge The Doctors
  • Dr Dermot Kearney MRCP, Consultant Cardiologist, Gateshead
  • Dr Kathy Myers FRCP, Retired Consultant in Palliative Medicine, London
  • Dr David Randall MRCP, Registrar in Renal Medicine, London

Christian Medical Association Responds to Its Federal Court Victory Upholding Medical Judgment and Conscience Freedom

News Release

Christian Medical Association

WASHINGTON, Oct. 15, 2019 /Standard Newswire/ — The Christian Medical Association, the nation’s largest faith-based professional medical organization, responded today to their victory in federal court for the conscience rights of medical professionals. The case, Franciscan Alliance v. Azar, sought relief from a 2016 federal regulation that threatened to drive religious doctors out of practice if they would not perform gender-transition procedures that violate their medical judgment and beliefs. Today’s ruling struck down the rule.

CMA CEO Dr. Michael Chupp noted, “Today’s victory in our federal court case in Texas against government coercion means doctors can continue to exercise medical judgment and ethical care based upon sound medical evidence and Hippocratic standards of patient care instead of any ideology. As our national polling has proven, doctors of faith endeavor to care for all patients regardless of whether or not we agree with their choices or values. But we need the freedom to exercise medical judgment and conscience convictions in order to practice medicine ethically and to provide the best and safest care to our patients.”

CMA Vice President for Government Relations and Director of Freedom2Care Jonathan Imbody added, “We are thankful for Becket’s excellent representation of our membership and their cogent presentation to the court of the legal grounds for this decision, which included the Religious Freedom Restoration Act. That law provides essential protections against the current drive to replace religious freedom with ideological coercion, and we must resist all attempts to nullify the law and its protections consistent with our First Amendment.”

Becket is also currently fighting for the conscience rights of religious doctors on behalf of Dr. Regina Frost and the Christian Medical Association, in another case, New York v. HHS.

Freedom2Care conscience polling: www.freedom2care.org/polling

CONTACT: Margie Shealy, 888-230-2637, 423-341-4254 cell, margie.shealy@cmda.org

Assisted Suicide Case About Doctor Fired from Catholic Health Network Challenges Religious Freedoms

Newsweek

Jeffery Martin

Centura Health, a Catholic health care network in Colorado, fired a doctor who attempted to help a terminally ill man end his life. According to KDVR, the lawsuit filed against Centura will be going back to state court where questions about freedom of religion could be raised.

Dr. Barbara Morris wanted to prescribe life-ending drugs to Neil Mahoney, a 64-year-old with incurable cancer. Centura’s policies against assisted suicide allegedly violated state law. KCNC reports that after asking a state court to declare that she could not be sanctioned for attempting to help her patient end his life, Dr. Morris was dismissed from her position. . . . [Full text]

David Mackereth: Christian doctor loses trans beliefs case

BBC News

A doctor who refused to use transgender pronouns as people’s chosen sex as it went against his Christian faith has lost his tribunal.

Disability assessor Dr David Mackereth, from Dudley, West Midlands, claimed the Department for Work and Pensions (DWP) breached his right to freedom of thought, conscience and religion.

But a panel ruled his biblical view of what it is to be male and female was “incompatible with human dignity.” . . . [Full text]

UK High Court defines ‘motherhood’ in controversial transgender case

BioEdge

Michael Cook*

A trans man in the United Kingdom has lost his bid to be deemed a father on his child’s birth certificate – even though he conceived it, gestated it, and gave birth to it.

Astonishingly, it appears to be the first time that English common law has defined the word “mother”.

The would-be father, a natal female multimedia journalist at The Guardian named Freddie McConnell, was deeply disappointed by the decision and said that he plans to appeal. He complained:

“It has serious implications for non-traditional family structures. It upholds the view that only the most traditional forms of family are properly recognised or treated equally. It’s just not fair.”

Full text

Nova Scotia hospital forced to provide euthanasia, assisted suicide

Services to be provided in attached building

Arrangement said to preserve Catholic identity

Sean Murphy*

Hospital

St. Martha’s Regional Hospital in Antigonish, Nova Scotia, will begin providing euthanasia and assisted suicide (EAS). The hospital had refused to provide the services because they were considered to be contrary to the Catholic identity of the hospital. The change of policy appears to have been forced by the threat of a lawsuit by EAS advocates. A campaign to force the hospital to permit EAS services had been ongoing for some time [See 958 days without medical assistance in dying policy, Ban on assisted dying at St. Martha’s hospital should end, says law prof].

St. Martha’s was established by a Catholic religious order, the Sisters of St. Martha. However, in 1996 the order transferred ownership of the hospital to the state. The terms of the transfer were set out in a “Mission Assurance Agreement” that required the state to ensure that “the philosophy, mission and values of St. Martha’s Regional Hospital would remain the same and the hospital would keep its faith-based identity.”1

Notwithstanding the terms of the agreement, from 1996 the hospital was not legally a private or Catholic institution, even though it is popularly known as “Nova Scotia’s only Catholic hospital .”2 EAS advocates argued that state ownership of the hospital made it a state actor obliged to provide euthanasia and assisted suicide.1 Logically, this would also apply to abortion, surgical sterilizations, and other procedures contrary to Catholic teaching.

The Nova Scotia Health Authority states that the change of policy is consistent with “the spirit of the Mission Assurance Agreement,”3 which seems to imply that a way has been found for the hospital to “keep its [Catholic] faith-based identify” while providing euthanasia and assisted suicide.

According to NSHA’s Vice President of Health Services and Chief Nursing Executive Tim Guest, euthanasia and assisted suicide will be provided in the Antigonish Health and Wellness Centre, formerly the Martha Center.4

Built in 1961, the Antigonish Health and Wellness Center is attached to St. Martha’s Regional Hospital. In 2009, still known as the Martha Center, it was described as “primarily a professional building” of 92,000 square feet that had undergone major renovations between 2006 and 2009.5

The Sisters of St. Martha have issued a statement:

The Sisters of St Martha were informed that the Nova Scotia Health Authority continues to uphold our Mission Assurance Agreement, while providing access in Antigonish for individuals who request Medical Assistance in Dying (MAID).

The Nova Scotia Health Authority has assured us that Medical Assistance in Dying (MAID) will not take place in St. Martha’s Regional Hospital. We do not own St. Martha’s Regional Hospital, or the building called the Antigonish Health and Wellness Center. . . 6

It is not clear from the statements if assessments and preliminaries for euthanasia/assisted suicide will occur in the hospital building, with actual administration of lethal medication taking place in the Health and Wellness Center.

1. Downie J, GilbertD. Nova Scotia now a leader in medical assistance in dying [Internet]. The Chronicle Herald. 2019 Sep 19.

2. Willick F. Ban on assisted dying at St. Martha’s hospital should end, says law prof [Internet]. CBC News. 2018 Dec 28.

3. Lord R, Quon A. NSHA quietly changes medically assisted dying policy at Catholic hospital [Internet]. Global News. 2019 Sep 18.

4. 989XFM. Nova Scotia Health Authority allows Medically Assisted Death at St. Martha’s Regional Hospital [Internet]. 2019 Sep 19.

5. Guysborough Antigonish Strait Health Authority. Request for Proposal: Radio Frequency (RF) Wireless Site Survey [Internet]. 2009 Apr 17.

6. Boisvert B. Sisters of St. Martha Media Statement [Internet]. 2019 Sep 19.

Court reinstates lawsuit against Catholic hospital for refusing transgender patient’s surgery

Los Angeles Times

Michael Hiltzik

Stating that California’s interest in fighting discrimination against LGBTQ residents outweighs the right to impose religious standards on healthcare, an appeals court has reinstated a lawsuit against the Catholic Dignity Health hospital chain for barring a hysterectomy for a transgender patient.

The lawsuit was brought by Evan Minton, whose hysterectomy was abruptly canceled by Dignity’s Mercy San Juan Medical Center of Carmichael, Calif., in 2016 when hospital officials learned he was transgender. The hospital took the action to comply with the church’s Ethical and Religious Directives for Catholic Health Care Services, which prohibit sterilization procedures except in very narrow circumstances. . . [Full text]

Assisted-death lawsuit adjourned, government evidence widens eligibility: lawyer

More Canadians eligible for assisted death: lawyer

The Chronicle Journal

Laura Kane

VANCOUVER – The British Columbia Civil Liberties Association and a woman with a degenerative illness have adjourned their lawsuit challenging the federal assisted-dying law after they say government evidence expanded eligibility for the procedure.

The law says that only people who have a “reasonably foreseeable” natural death qualify, but a government expert has filed a report that states some doctors are now interpreting this category to include people who refuse care that would prolong their lives. . . [Full text]

Quebec court hands down ‘robust rejection’ of assisted dying criteria. Here’s what to know

Global News

Maham Abedi

Medically-assisted dying became a discussion point on the second day of the 2019 federal election trail, as leaders reacted to a ruling by the Quebec Superior Court that part of the country’s law is “unconstitutional.”

On Wednesday, a Quebec judge ruled that both the province’s and country’s laws on assisted dying were too restrictive and therefore discriminated against some who sought the procedure. . . [Full text]

Dutch Court Clears Doctor in Euthanasia of Dementia Patient

New York Times

Palko Karasz

LONDON — A court in the Netherlands on Wednesday acquitted a doctor who had been accused of unlawful euthanasia for administering a lethal injection to a patient with dementia, a case that raised questions about the clarity of the country’s law in such circumstances.

The patient, 74, who has not been publicly identified, had asked in writing for doctors to end her life if she had to be admitted to a nursing home, and if she thought the time was right. But, when she entered the home, incapacitated, she appeared to have changed her mind, giving “mixed signals,” about her intentions, prosecutors said. . . . [Full text]