Ottawa’s Catholic palliative care hospital under pressure as it refuses to do euthanasia

LifeSite News

Lianne Laurence

OTTAWA, March 2, 2016 (LifeSiteNews) – Ottawa’s largest palliative care hospital, the Catholic Bruyère Continuing Care Centre, says it will neither euthanize nor assist its patients to commit suicide when those options become legally available June 6.

Bruyère’s vice-president of public affairs and planning, Amy Porteous, told the Ottawa Citizen that the hospital is “waiting for clarification” on the protocol for transferring patients who request euthanasia or assisted suicide after that date.

Bruyère is among 21 Catholic health care institutions administered by the Catholic Health Sponsors of Ontario.

Other institutions under CHSO’s oversight include Toronto’s St. Michael’s Hospital and Providence Centre, the Pembroke Regional Hospital, Penetanguishene’s Waypoint Centre for Mental Health Care, and Sudbury’s St. Joseph’s Continuing Care Centre. . . [Full text]

 

The CCRL Strongly Opposes Parliamentary Committee’s Assisted Suicide/Euthanasia Recommendations

News Release

Catholic Civil Rights League

TORONTO, ON February 25, 2016 – The Catholic Civil Rights League (CCRL) strongly opposes the recommendations of the Report of the Special Joint Committee on Physician-Assisted Dying, titled “Medical Assistance in Dying:  A Patient-Centred Approach.” The CCRL uses the more accurate terms “assisted suicide” and “euthanasia” since there is nothing medicinal whatsoever in the process of killing a patient or intervening so that a patient may commit suicide more easily.

The majority report is problematic as it brings Canada further along the path of unrestricted assisted suicide and euthanasia, a regime which began with the Supreme Court’s unanimous decision in Carter v. Canada and with it, the overturning of the prohibition against assisted suicide and euthanasia from the Criminal Code. In the twenty-two years since the 1993 Supreme Court of Canada decision in Rodriguez, Parliament not only continued to oppose assisted suicide and euthanasia in six separate votes, but rather passed near unanimous resolutions for a national anti-suicide prevention policy, and for a further national strategy to support increased palliative care throughout Canada.

The Joint Committee’s majority recommends the practically unfettered and immediate implementation of death on demand for Canadians. The CCRL made submissions to previous consultation panels on euthanasia in response to the decision in Carter, but the League was not prepared to collaborate in the legislative process of advocating for a liberal bill as now proposed.  The CCRL remains of the view, based on the experience of other jurisdictions, that “safeguards”, even as minimally expressed by the Joint Committee, are illusory.  The League fears for the elderly, the disabled, and the those with mental health afflictions, that they will be the subject of increased pressure to take their own lives, rather than gain access to treatment, or palliative care.  In every other jurisdiction, the scope of assisted suicide and euthanasia widens, and instances of egregious circumstances of premature death prevail.

Of particular concern to the CCRL is recommendation #11:

That the Government of Canada work with the provinces and territories to ensure that all publicly funded health care institutions provide medical assistance in dying.

Catholic health institutions cannot and will not participate in the intrinsically evil act of assisted suicide/euthanasia. The Liberals, as professed guarantors of the Charter, cannot in good conscience merely deny the religious and conscientious rights of such institutions. Is the government’s enthusiasm for such a proposal intended to bring about the demise of the Catholic health system?

Recommendation #10 is wholly unacceptable:

That the Government of Canada work with the provinces and territories and their medical regulatory bodies to establish a process that respects a health care practitioner’s freedom of conscience while at the same time respecting the needs of a patient who seeks medical assistance in dying. At a minimum, the objecting practitioner must provide an effective referral for the patient.

As the CCRL has stated many times, the compulsion to make an “effective referral” is an infringement of the Charter right of freedom of conscience and religion.  Compelling an objecting physician to provide an effective referral to another physician, health-care provider, or third party agency in order to carry out assisted death or euthanasia, involves that physician in the objectionable procedure.  The Parliamentary Committee has ignored numerous presentations and submissions opposing any compulsion to force a physician to violate his or her own conscience by being a participant in the very act, the very procedure to which he or she objects in the first place.

We urge members of the media and others who care for the future of Canada to have reference to the dissenting report of four Conservative MPs who have taken issue with the majority recommendations of the Joint Committee.

Canada is entering fully into the culture of death.

The CCRL asks all of our supporters to join us in rejecting this report and we plead with all Canadians, and indeed all Catholics to wake up and join us in this fight, spiritually through prayer, and politically by using our collective voice. Let us announce that we will not accept this.

About the CCRL
Catholic Civil Rights League (CCRL) (www.ccrl.ca) assists in creating conditions within which Catholic teachings can be better understood, cooperates with other organizations in defending civil rights in Canada, and opposes defamation and discrimination against Catholics on the basis of their beliefs. The CCRL was founded in 1985 as an independent lay organization with a large nationwide membership base. The CCRL is a Canadian non-profit organization entirely supported by the generosity of its members.

 For further information:
Christian Domenic Elia, PhD
CCRL Executive Director
416-466-8244
@CCRLtweets

Groups make effort to protect physicians’ conscience rights

 The Catholic Register

Deborah Gyapong, Canadian Catholic News

OTTAWA – Doctors’ conscience rights are threatened by a proposed policy of the College of Physicians and Surgeons of Ontario (CPSO) that may force them to refer patients for morally problematic procedures, warn some physicians’ organizations.

The CPSO has given a Feb. 20 deadline for input into the policy that would force physicians to refer patients for procedures such as abortion and assisted suicide (the Supreme Court on Feb. 6 struck down prohibitions against assisted suicide) against their consciences. The College of Physicians and Surgeons of Saskatchewan is also considering similar changes to its policy, with a deadline of March 6 for public input.

The Christian Medical and Dental Society (CMDS) Canada has been working closely with the Canadian Federation of Catholic Physicians’ Societies in rallying opposition to the proposed changes.

“The proposed policy demands that doctors refer for, and in some cases actually perform, procedures like birth control, abortion and even euthanasia,” said CMDS executive director Larry Worthen. “Physicians would have to perform these procedures when the regulator considers them to be ‘urgent or otherwise necessary to prevent imminent harm, suffering and/or deterioration.’  . . . [Full Text]

 

Webcast on Ontario Physicians’ Conscience Rights

On February 8 the Catholic Civil Rights League, the Toronto Catholic Doctors’ Guild, and Canadian Catholic Bioethics Institute held a seminar/webinar to help you frame your response to the College of Physicians and Surgeons of Ontario’s policy document on professional obligations and human rights.

Submission to the College of Physicians and Surgeons of Ontario

Re: Professional Obligations and Human Rights

Catholic Civil Rights League

The Catholic Civil Rights League (CCRL) is pleased to provide this submission to the College of Physicians and Surgeons of Ontario (CPSO) regarding the revised and approved draft policy Professional Obligations and Human Rights. We strongly advocate for a robust understanding and protection of the Charter right of freedom of conscience and religion for all Canadians, and indeed physicians in the daily routine of their care to patients and in the overall forming of their individual medical practices. The CCRL therefore rejects the proposed mandate for an “effective referral” as it is a breach of a physician’s rights and a serious incursion into the professional standing of a physician.

We previously provided a submission in August of 2014, when external consultation was sought regarding proposed changes to Physicians and the Ontario Human Rights Code. In 2008, we raised similar concerns in that consultative process. We are as adamant with our concerns today as we were seven years ago. Doctors and other health care professionals, indeed all Canadians, enjoy the Charter right of freedom of conscience and religion. A proper balancing of the rights of physicians with the concept of patient autonomy must not result in the trumping of the rights of physicians in their medical practices. Such rights extend not only to refusing to perform morally objectionable services, but the right not to be obliged to refer to other practitioners who may be willing to provide such services. This clearly would constitute participation in wrong. The proposed mandate for an “effective referral” must be rejected.
Lines 156-159 are wholly unacceptable to the CCRL:

Where physicians are unwilling to provide certain elements of care due to their moral or religious beliefs, an effective referral to another health care provider must be provided to the patient. An effective referral means a referral made in good faith, to a non-objecting, available, and accessible physician or other health-care provider.

The CCRL appeals to the Executive Committee and Council to strike from this policy the necessity to “provide an effective referral”. This is an unacceptable inclusion, an unnecessary and unwanted change from the 2008 policy. Compelling a physician to provide an effective referral to another physician or health-care provider in order to carry out a procedure to which he or she objects on the grounds of conscience or religion also compels the physician to violate his or her own conscience by being a participant in the very act, the very procedure to which he or she objects in the first place.

The current CPSO policy also states that:

The balancing of rights must be done in context. In relation to freedom of religion specifically, courts will consider how directly the act in question interferes with a core religious belief. Courts will seek to determine whether the act interferes with the religious belief in a ‘manner that is more than trivial or insubstantial.’ The less direct the impact on a religious belief, the less likely courts are to find that freedom of religion is infringed.

The CCRL submits that issues pertaining to the sanctity of life from conception until natural death is a core Catholic belief. There is also a growing body of medical research which has questioned in recent years the merits of artificial birth control, and the further risks to women from abortion. A Catholic physician is entitled in conscience to avoid providing artificial contraception or abortifacients, or procuring an abortion unless the mother’s life is in imminent threat. In the event that Canada adopts a regime of physician assisted suicide, the threat to conscientious objection is that much greater. We assure the CPSO that under no circumstances would any of the aforementioned practices be considered ‘trivial or insubstantial’.

The CCRL further submits that there are numerous procedures which may violate good medicine, or violate the consciences of many other physicians belonging to other religions or those holding sincere beliefs, religious or otherwise. The point is that despite our mandate to educate the public and defend and promote the Catholic perspective, we at the CCRL nonetheless submit that a physician must have the right to carry out their duties in line with their consciences, period.

Neither the College nor the courts determine what comprises religious belief and to what extent acts may or may not interfere. Once the sincerity of religious belief is understood, neither the College or courts should interfere in a delineation of what the particular faith may prescribe. It is far more logical to simply respect physicians’ consciences as has been the case in Ontario with the policy in place since 2008. The compulsion to effectively refer violates this right of freedom of conscience and religion and there is no reason to institute the need to provide an effective referral, whether it is on the grounds of access to care, or on any other grounds.

Regarding the ‘balancing of rights’ referred to by the CPSO, the CCRL believes that the current status quo in Ontario maintains this balance between the Charter rights of conscience and religion with the concept of patient autonomy. Using the previous listed examples of practices that would be morally objectionable to a serious Catholic physician, consider that the number of said physicians is minute in comparison to those who would have no objection whatsoever. If a lack of balance exists, it is surely found in the vast difference between physicians who choose to conscientiously dissent versus those who do not. This difference is so great that it cannot be objectively stated that a member of the public in Ontario would have their rights to autonomy violated by any physician following the 2008 CPSO policy.

With this submission, we at the CCRL call upon the CPSO’s Executive Committee and Council to reject the mandate for “effective referrals”. The medical profession, as with any grouping of individuals is not truly free to live and free to grow if its members are not able to govern their actions in accordance with their individual consciences, whether informed by moral and religious beliefs or otherwise.

Canada is a pluralist society, and an authentic pluralism recognizes that there will be differences in the public sphere, and that we live with such differences in a civil society. The proposed CPSO policy engages in a trumping exercise, mandating that a patient’s autonomy trumps recognized conscientious and religious rights of physicians. The demand for acceptance of a regime of “effective referral” of morally objectionable practices would lead to patients losing trust in the professional status of doctors. There is also the likelihood of numerous physicians opposing the new proposed policy and their refusal to comply, generating unwarranted complaints and possible exits from the jurisdiction. The extent of potential disruption is unknown, but greater instability would certainly follow in the provision of medical services. Ontario can ill afford such a tearing of the social fabric of our society. The better alternative is to accept that we are respectful of differences, especially when they concern aspects of one’s moral or religious beliefs, in no way trivial, but rather as the basis of a well-developed civil society.

Catholics doctors who reject abortion told to get out of family medicine

The Catholic Register

Michael Swan

Catholic doctors who won’t perform abortions or provide abortion referrals should leave family medicine, says an official of the College of Physicians and Surgeons of Ontario.

“It may well be that you would have to think about whether you can practice family medicine as it is defined in Canada and in most of the Western countries,” said Dr. Marc Gabel, chair of the college’s policy working group reviewing “Professional Obligations and Human Rights.”

The Ontario doctor’s organization released a draft policy Dec. 11 that would require all doctors to provide referrals for abortions, morning-after pills and contraception. The revised policy is in response to evolving obligations under the Ontario Human Rights Code, Gabel said.

There have been no Ontario Human Rights Tribunal decisions against doctors for failing to refer for abortion or contraception.

Gabel said there’s plenty of room for conscientious Catholics in various medical specialties, but a moral objection to abortion and contraception will put family doctors on the wrong side of human rights legislation and current professional practice. . . [Full text]

 

Ontario physicians college draft policy would trample conscience rights

Canadian Catholic News

Deborah Gyapong

OTTAWA – The College of Physicians and Surgeons of Ontario’s draft human rights policy would trample religious freedom and freedom of conscience, say groups defending those rights.

“Prominent academics and activists want to force objecting physicians to provide or refer for abortion and contraception,” said a news release from the Protection of Conscience Project.

“They and others have led increasingly strident campaigns to suppress freedom of conscience among physicians to achieve that goal. The College’s draft policy clearly reflects their influence.”

While the draft policy does not require doctors to perform treatments that violate their consciences or religious beliefs, it does require them to refer patients to doctors who will. . . [Full Text]

Joint intervention in Carter v. Canada

Selections from oral submissions

Supreme Court of Canada, 15 October, 2014

Sean Murphy*

Introduction:
The Catholic Civil Rights League, Faith and Freedom Alliance and the Protection of Conscience Project were jointly granted intervener status in Carter by the Supreme Court of Canada.  The joint factum voiced concern that legalization of physician assisted suicide and euthanasia would likely adversely affect physicians and health care workers who object to the procedures for reasons of conscience.  The factum was supplemented by an oral submission.

Links to annotated selections from the oral submissions relevant to freedom of conscience are provided below.  In each case, readers can access the Supreme Court webcast through the linked image.  Time stamps are cited to allow the relevant section of the webcast to be located.  On the Supreme Court website, use  “full screen” view when dragging the slider button to the desired time stamp.


Joseph Arvay, Q.C. (Counsel for the Appellants)


Jean-Yves Bernard (Counsel for the Attorney General of Quebec)


Harry Underwood (Counsel for the Canadian Medical Association)


Robert W. Staley (Counsel for the Catholic Civil Rights League, Faith and Freedom Alliance, and Protection of Conscience Project)

Submission to the Ontario College of Physicians and Surgeons

Catholic Civil Rights League

The Catholic Civil Rights League (CCRL) is pleased to provide this submission to the College of Physicians and Surgeons of Ontario (CPSO) regarding the review of the current policy Physicians and the Ontario Human Rights Code. The CCRL made a previous submission in 2008 prior to the adoption of the current policy. We make this submission on behalf of our membership nationally, particularly for those in Ontario.
Our concern today is similar to that of 6 years ago. We strongly advocate for the protection of the Charter right of freedom of conscience and religion for all Canadians, including physicians in the daily routine of their care to patients and in the overall forming of their individual medical practices. We believe this is key to the maintenance and growth of our social fabric in the province of Ontario and all of Canada. Your policy should reflect a true pluralistic society so as to avoid a climate for discrimination of any kind, including discrimination based on religious and moral beliefs and the exercise of one’s conscience.

The CCRL acknowledges the assertion in the current policy which states that, “There is no hierarchy of rights in the Charter; freedom of religion and conscience, and equality rights are of equal importance.” We also acknowledge that many citizens in Ontario subscribe to a belief in secular humanism, which often demands the relegating of issues informed by religion as private matters, which ought not be expressed or acted on in the public square. We would like to remind the CPSO that the Charter itself does not mention “freedom of religion” independent of “freedom of conscience and religion”, so that the right of one’s freedom of conscience informed by a religion, a philosophical system or otherwise is crucial regardless of society’s current views regarding religion.
The current CPSO policy also states that:

The balancing of rights must be done in context. In relation to freedom of religion specifically, Courts will consider how directly the act in question interferes with a core religious belief. Courts will seek to determine whether the act interferes with the religious belief in a ‘manner that is more than trivial or insubstantial.’ The more indirect the impact on a religious belief, the more likely Courts are to find that the freedom of religion should be limited.

The CCRL submits that issues pertaining to the sanctity of life from conception until natural death are at the core of Catholic beliefs. Such beliefs are also based in reason and medical science. To the Catholic physician, this would impact the providing of prescriptions of birth control pills and abortifacients and the performing of an abortion or its procural unless the mother’s life is in imminent threat. But such understandings go beyond these areas, and touch upon all aspects of medical care, whether for the disabled, the elderly, or those with mental afflictions. We assure the CPSO that under no circumstances would any of the aforementioned practices be considered ‘trivial or insubstantial’.

Secondly, we submit that the College must ensure that a physician’s conscience rights must be observed at first instance, especially given that there are numerous procedures which may cause such physicians, religious or otherwise, difficulty, regardless of their availability under the publicly funded system. In keeping with our mandate to educate the public and defend and promote the Catholic perspective, we at the CCRL submit that a physician must have the right to carry out their duties in line with their respective consciences.

We submit that it would be offensive and a fundamental injustice to human dignity to require people to support, facilitate or participate in what they perceive to be wrongful acts. The more serious the wrongdoing, the graver the injustice and offence that would occur. We urge the College to resist any policy revision to establish the principle that people can be compelled to do what they believe to be wrong – or face the risk of sanction if they refuse. The College should avoid any suggestion that physicians be required to observe a ‘duty to do what is wrong’ in medical practice.

In referring to the ‘balancing of rights’ referred to in the above excerpt from the 2008 policy, the CCRL submits that the current policy attempts to maintain this balance outlined in the Charter rights of conscience and religion and the Ontario Human Rights Code. Using the previous listed examples of practices that would be morally objectionable to a serious Catholic physician, the number of said physicians is minute in comparison to those who would have no objection whatsoever. If a lack of balance exists, it is surely found in the vast difference between physicians who choose to conscientiously dissent versus those who do not. A member of the public in Ontario has ample resources and options available for recourse to a physician to perform publicly funded services, without violating the conscience rights of a physician who may object.

With this submission, we at the CCRL sincerely hope that the September 2008 CPSO policy regarding Physicians and the Ontario Human Rights Code is not altered in a manner that would diminish a physician’s right to freedom of conscious and religion in carrying out his or her duties according to the professional standards and guidelines of the CPSO. The medical profession, as with any grouping of individuals is not truly free to live and free to grow if its members are not able to govern their actions in accordance with their individual consciences whether informed by moral and religious beliefs or otherwise. In no way is this subtractive to the social fabric of our society, rather it greatly contributes to a true pluralist and diverse population. We should be allowed to agree or to disagree at times, always respectful of differences especially when they concern aspects of one’s moral or religious core, in no way trivial, but rather at the basis of a well-developed, civil society.

Catholic Civil Rights League notes threat to freedom of conscience in Quebec euthanasia bill

The Catholic Civil Rights League has issued a news release concerning the euthanasia bill introduced by the Quebec government.  In addition to expressing the League’s opposition to euthanasia, the release warned that the bill threatens freedom of conscience for health care workers opposed to euthanasia.

Also of concern to the League, while this proposed legislation allows doctors to refuse to participate in euthanasia requests, it implies that they must participate in a process referring the request to a more willing provider. There appears to be no provision for the religious and conscientious rights of other members of the health care team.  As we have seen on the question of abortion, legalization can lead to pressure on health care workers to participate in activities they find morally objectionable.