Ontario doctors challenge policy forcing referrals for medically assisted dying

College’s rules infringe on doctors’ right to object on conscientious, religious grounds, groups argue

CBC News

Amanda Pfeffer

Rules forcing Ontario doctors to offer medically assisted dying — or at least a timely referral — infringe on their constitutional right to object on conscientious or religious grounds, several physicians’ groups told a divisional court tribunal this week.

Their lawyer is asking the tribunal for a judicial review of the College of Physicians and Surgeons of Ontario’s (CPSO) recent policy on assisted dying, which requires doctors to perform an “effective referral.”

But several groups including the Christian Medical and Dental Society of Canada, the Canadian Federation of Catholic Physicians’ Societies and Canadian Physicians for Life, along with five individuals, are arguing the policy is the moral equivalent of offering the procedure themselves. . . [Full text]

 

Ontario conscience rights case goes to court

Catholic Register

Michael Swan

TORONTO – In historic Osgoode Hall, 17 lawyers along with eight banker boxes of documents were arrayed three benches deep in front of Justice Herman J. Wilton-Siegel, Justice Richard A. Lococo and Justice Wendy W. Matheson before lawyer Albertos Polizogopoulos made his opening arguments on behalf of the Christian Medical and Dental Society of Canada and in favour of the Charter right of doctors to practice medicine according to their conscience.

The CMDS, supported by the Canadian Federation of Catholic Physicians Societies, Canadian Physicians for Life and the Catholic Civil Rights League, is in Ontario Superior Court of Justice June 13-15 challenging the College of Physicians and Surgeons of Ontario over its “effective referral” policy. The policy forces doctors who object to abortion, birth control and assisted suicide to write an “effective referral” for the services to a willing and available doctor. Intervening on the side of the provincial regulatory body governing the practice of medicine is the Attorney General of Ontario.

 

Doctors challenge Ontario policy requiring referral for services that clash with morals

2-year-old policy was established under guidance of a working group and subjected to external consultation

CBC

The Canadian Press

The debate over Ontario doctors’ right to refuse to provide medical services that clash with their moral or religious beliefs is headed to court.

A group of five doctors and three professional organizations is challenging a policy issued by the College of Physicians and Surgeons of Ontario that requires doctors who have a moral objection to the treatment sought by a patient to refer them to another medical professional who can provide the service. . . [Full text]

Doctors challenge Ontario policy on assisted-death referrals

Physicians go to court over requirement to send patients to other doctors if they don’t want to provide medical assistance in dying.

Toronto Star

Alex Mckeen

A group of doctors has mounted a legal challenge to an Ontario policy that requires them to refer patients to other doctors for medical assistance in dying.

The Christian Medical and Dental Society of Canada, the Canadian Federation of Catholic Physicians’ Societies and Canadian Physicians for Life, along with five individual physicians, are arguing at Ontario Superior Court this week that the Charter of Rights and Freedoms protects them from being required to refer patients elsewhere if they don’t want to help those patients end their lives.

They are fighting a policy of the College of Physicians and Surgeons of Ontario that says doctors must provide an “effective referral” if they refuse to help a patient end their life due to “reasons of conscience or religion.” . . . [Full text]

 

Ontario Liberals give doctors no choice but to refer patients for assisted death

Lifesite News

Lianne Laurence

TORONTO, April 13, 2017 (LifeSiteNews) — A Liberal-dominated committee has refused to add conscience rights protection to Ontario’s bill regulating euthanasia and assisted suicide.

The finance and economic affairs committee voted down Progressive Conservative health critic Jeff Yurek’s proposed conscience rights amendments to Bill 84 on Tuesday.

The Liberal move leaves conscientiously objecting doctors with no protection against a College of Physicians and Surgeons of Ontario’s policy forcing them to give patients requesting euthanasia an “effective referral” — that is, to a willing and accessible colleague for the purposes of accomplishing the act. . . [Full text]

 

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Ontario MPP promises to dig in to defend conscience rights of healthcare providers, workers

LifeSite News

Lianne Laurence

TORONTO, January 16, 2016 (LifeSiteNews) — Progressive Conservative MPP Monte McNaughton says he’s ready to “fight tooth and nail” for conscience rights of healthcare workers and institutions in Ontario.

The province’s doctors are facing a “globally unprecedented” attack on conscience rights from the College of Physicians and Surgeons of Ontario, the 39-year-old MPP for Lambton-Kent-Middlesex told LifeSiteNews.

“I’ve talked to many healthcare administrators and healthcare providers,” McNaughton said. “There’s just huge concerns because people don’t think that anyone should have to go against their conscience when it comes to assisted suicide.” . . . [Full text]

 

Christian doctors challenge Ontario’s assisted-death referral requirement

Globe and Mail

Sean Fine

Groups representing more than 4,700 Christian doctors across the country have launched a court challenge to Ontario regulations that require them to refer patients to physicians willing to provide an assisted death, arguing the referrals are morally equivalent to participating in the procedure.

The College of Physicians and Surgeons of Ontario, however, takes issue with the faith groups’ position. “An effective referral does not foreshadow or guarantee an outcome,” college spokeswoman Tracey Sobers said in an e-mail.

Ewan Goligher, a doctor who works in the intensive care unit at Mount Sinai Hospital in Toronto, said he considers himself a conscientious objector to doctor-assisted dying and supports the court challenge. “I think the patient is of greater value than their preference, and I cannot lift my hand to destroy that which is of fundamental value,” he said in an interview. . . [Full Text]

 

Ontario physicians oppose referrals for assisted suicide, seek judicial review of CPSO requirement

News Release

Coalition for HealthCARE and Conscience

TORONTO, ONT. (June 20, 2016) – The Coalition for HealthCARE and Conscience, representing more than 5,000 physicians and 100 healthcare facilities across Canada, is heartened that federal legislation for assisted suicide specifically states that no one should be compelled to participate in euthanasia.

However, the coalition is deeply troubled that this directive in Bill C-14 is already being ignored and that doctors who oppose assisted suicide over conscience concerns will be required to help take the lives of patients — at least in Ontario.

The College of Physicians and Surgeons of Ontario (CSPO) demands that doctors who conscientiously object to assisted suicide refer patients seeking to end their lives to other physicians who will provide the procedure.

No other foreign jurisdiction that has legalized assisted suicide requires doctors to perform or refer for this procedure. Other provinces have already implemented guidelines to protect doctors who object to providing or referring for assisted suicide.

“The current approach of the CPSO demands that doctors set aside their morals and go against their conscience to directly refer for assisted suicide,” said Larry Worthen, Coalition member and Executive Director of the Christian Medical and Dental Society of Canada. “In our view, effective referral and participating in assisted suicide are morally and ethically the same thing.”

To ensure that conscience rights are respected for Ontario doctors, three physician groups in the Coalition are seeking an expedited judicial review asking the court to determine whether the approach by the CPSO is unconstitutional.

Members of the Coalition fully support the right people clearly have to refuse or discontinue the use of life-sustaining treatment and to allow death to occur.  However, they also hold strong moral convictions that it is never justified for a physician to help take a patient’s life, under any circumstances.

“By requiring effective referral, the CPSO is forcing people of conscience and faith to act against their moral convictions. This threatens the very core of why they became physicians, which is to help to heal people. This is discrimination. It is unnecessary,” Worthen said.

The Coalition is calling on the College to make accommodations that would allow people who have conscientious objection to assisted suicide to continue to practice medicine.

Protecting conscience rights of health practitioners would require only minor accommodations, such as allowing patients direct access to an assessment or allowing complete transfer of care to another physician.

“There are ways to respect patients’ wishes while protecting conscience rights,” Worthen said. “Not to do so is discrimination against people for their morals and convictions, which are protected in the Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedoms.”

A strong majority of Canadians are on side with the coalition’s beliefs on conscience protection. A recent Nanos Research poll found that 75% of Canadians agreed that doctors “should be able to opt out of offering assisted dying,” compared with 21% who disagreed.

The coalition continues to urge Canadians with concerns about assisted suicide legislation to visit CanadiansforConscience.ca where they can communicate directly with their elected members of provincial or federal parliament.

The coalition represents several like-minded organizations committed to protecting conscience rights for health practitioners and institutions. Members of the coalition include the Catholic Archdiocese of Toronto, the Christian Medical and Dental Society of Canada, the Catholic Organization for Life and Family, the Canadian Federation of Catholic Physicians’ Societies, the Canadian Catholic Bioethics Institute, Canadian Physicians for Life, Evangelical Fellowship of Canada, Archdiocese of Vancouver, and the Catholic Health Alliance of Canada.

 About The Coalition for HealthCARE and Conscience:

The Coalition for HealthCARE and Conscience represents a group of like-minded organizations, including representing more than 110 healthcare facilities (with almost 18,000 care beds and 60,000 staff) and more than 5,000 physicians across Canada, that are committed to protecting conscience rights for faith-based health practitioners and facilities. We were brought together by a common mission to respect the sanctity of human life, to protect the vulnerable and to promote the ability of individuals and institutions to provide health care without having to compromise their moral convictions.