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]


Doctors have right to choose what services they perform

Toronto Sun
Reproduced with permission

John Carpay

Should the government be able to force a person to do something that she or he considers to be fundamentally wrong?

Dictatorships say yes, but free countries like Canada have always said no.

For example, those who believe that killing another person is never justified, not even in a war against an invading foreign power, are exempted from mandatory military service.

Ontario’s Superior Court of Justice is considering freedom of conscience this week, in a court action brought by the Christian Medical and Dental Society (CMDS) against the College of Physicians and Surgeons of Ontario (CPSO).

The college has adopted policies that require doctors to assist patients who want to commit suicide, and to provide abortions, even if those services conflict with a doctor’s conscience or ethics. The CPSO requires doctors to provide these services themselves, or provide an “effective referral” to another doctor.

There is no shortage of doctors who are willing to do abortions, and doctors willing to assist people who want to commit suicide. So these college policies are driven by ideology, not by any practical need.

The CPSO argues that it’s no big deal for doctors to refer patients for a service that the doctor sees as wrong, and that this is a fair compromise for objecting doctors. However, when the college prohibits doctors from mutilating the genitals of young girls (called “female circumcision” in some cultures), the college also bans referring for this medical service. Why? Because referring a patient (or the parents of a young girl) to another doctor amounts to active participation. It’s like saying, “I won’t take part in robbing the bank, but I will provide the robber with information as to where he can get his gun.”

The college argues that the rights of patients are in conflict with doctors’ freedom of conscience, and that patients’ interests should prevail over constitutional rights. But in fact, Canadian courts have repeatedly ruled that patients do not have a constitutional right to any particular medical procedure. In one Ontario case, a man with liver cancer was told he had eight months to live. Adolfo Flora then spent $450,000 in the U.K. for a living-related liver transplantation, which saved his life.

The government refused to reimburse the $450,000, insisting that the government has the sole right to determine what services would or would not be provided by its health-care monopoly. The court agreed, and ruled against Flora.

In Ontario and other provinces, it’s illegal for patients to buy private health insurance and private medical services. When Canadians have no right to access essential health services outside of the government’s monopoly, it makes no sense to argue that patients have a “right” to force unwilling doctors to do what those doctors consider to be wrong.

But even if the Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedoms provided patients with a right to health care, this would still not justify violating the Charter-protected freedom of conscience that doctors — and all citizens of a free society — enjoy.



Canadian nurse forced out for refusing to participate in euthanasia

Lifesite News

Pete Baklinski

PALMER RAPIDS, Ontario, June 14, 2017 (LifeSiteNews) — A Canadian nurse no longer has her job helping the sick and the elderly after she was told that she must either assist patients who wanted to kill themselves using the country’s new euthanasia law, or resign.

Mary Jean Martin, a Registered Nurse who worked in middle-management as a Homecare Coordinator in Ontario, said she became a nurse in the late 1980s to help the “vulnerable and the struggling,” not to be a link in a chain that would ultimately lead to a patient’s death.

“Can you imagine being a nurse and being told that you have to help kill someone? That’s so against the philosophy of nursing and it’s so against the heart of the healthcare person,” she told LifeSiteNews in an exclusive interview. . . [Full text]


Swedish midwife turns to European Court of Human Rights

News Release

Alliance Defending Freedom

STRASBOURG, France – A Christian midwife filed her application with the European Court of Human Rights Wednesday against Sweden. Elinor Grimmark had to seek work in another country because she refused to participate in abortions. Because the Swedish courts have failed to recognize her freedom of conscientious objection, she is asking the European court to hear her case, Grimmark v. Sweden.

“The desire to help bring life into this world is what leads many midwives and nurses to enter the medical profession in the first place. Instead of forcing desperately needed midwives out of a profession, governments should look to safeguard the moral convictions of medical staff,” said ADF International Director of European Advocacy Robert Clarke. “Ellinor’s case could determine whether people who value life at all stages of development will be able to pursue a medical career in the future. Sweden has failed to protect this midwife’s fundamental right to freedom of conscience guaranteed by international law.”

Three different medical clinics had refused to employ Grimmark because she would not assist with abortions in light of her convictions about the dignity of all human life. On April 12, the Swedish Labour Court of Appeal refused to protect her freedom of conscience and instead found that Grimmark’s rights had not been violated.

The court required her to pay the local government’s legal costs, amounting to more than 150,000 euros. ADF International filed an expert brief in support of her case with the Swedish court, highlighting the protection for freedom of conscience that exists under international law.

“I chose the midwifery profession because I wanted to help bring life into this world,” explained Grimmark during a media background briefing in Strasbourg Wednesday. “I cannot understand why the Swedish government refuses to accommodate my conscientious convictions. I am now working in Norway, where my conscience is respected, but no one can explain why Sweden cannot do the same.”

ADF International is an alliance-building, non-profit legal organization that advocates for the right of people to freely live out their faith.
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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


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]


Physician’s conscience should trump patient demands, argues Justice Centre

News Release

Justice Centre for Constitutional Freedoms

TORONTO: The Justice Centre will intervene at the Ontario Superior Court of Justice, Tuesday June 13 through June 15, in support of the Christian Medical and Dental Society of Canada (“CMDS”) Application against the College of Physicians and Surgeons of Ontario (the “CPSO”) in the Ontario Superior Court of Justice.

The CPSO has adopted policies that require doctors to assist patients who want to commit suicide, and other medical services such as abortion, even if those services conflict with a doctor’s conscience or religious beliefs.  The CPSO further requires doctors to provide “an effective referral” for physician-assisted suicide, also known as Medical Assistance in Dying (“MAID”).

The Justice Centre’s intervention will focus on the Supreme Court’s repeated rulings that there is no Charter right to health care, or any medical procedure, including MAID.  Therefore, there cannot be a right, Charter or otherwise, which allows patients to demand that an individual doctor perform or provide any medical procedure or an “effective referral” for any specific medical procedure or service that violates that doctor’s conscientious or religious beliefs.

On the contrary, doctors have protected conscience and religious rights under section 2(a) of the Charter, and government bodies like the College are required to respect those Charter freedoms. In failing to respect the conscience rights of medical practitioners, the CPSO threatens the integrity of the entire medical profession.

The Justice Centre’s Factum concludes:

The Policy uses threats and coercion to compel conduct that overrides a physician’s foundational right-and-wrong imperatives. The CPSO’s justifications as to why it is  necessary in the instant case to violate an individual’s conscience are fallacious. There is no constitutional right to health care, and no fiduciary obligations exist to require a physician to assist with suicide. History is replete with examples of state entities that compelled their citizens to act contrary to conscience, with horrific and tragic results. In attempting to compel conduct against the wills and consciences of medical practitioners the CPSO adds itself to a list of infamy.

Death Row Doctoring: The Dicey Medical Ethics of Prison Executions


Seema Yasmin

I had seen people die, but I had never watched a person be killed—until I moved to Texas. It was a warm day in September 2014 when my editor sent me to death row in Huntsville. I had joined the Dallas Morning News as a reporter that summer, never expecting my job to land me in a small, musty room overlooking an execution chamber.

Through green metal bars and a window, I watched Lisa Ann Coleman lying on a crucifix-shaped gurney, yellow leather straps wrapped around her arms and legs. Coleman, a 38-year-old African American woman, was scheduled to die at 6 PM for the murder of a 9-year-old boy in 2004. A microphone hung from the ceiling of the execution chamber and hovered an inch or two above her round brown face. . . [Full text]