Conscience protection still at risk with assisted death legislation

News Release
For Immediate Distribution

Coalition for HealthCARE and Conscience

OTTAWA, ONT. (April 14, 2016) – The Coalition for HealthCARE and Conscience recognizes that federal legislation tabled today on physician-assisted death has rejected disturbing recommendations from the parliamentary joint committee regarding access to assisted suicide.

However, the coalition, which represents more than 100 healthcare facilities (with almost 18,000 care beds and 60,000 staff) and more than 5,000 physicians across Canada, is concerned that the bill doesn’t protect the conscience rights of health care workers or facilities that morally object to performing or referring for what is being referred to as “medically assisted death.”

By making no reference to conscience rights in the legislation, it appears that the federal government intends to leave it up to individual provincial and territorial governments to determine whether to protect health care workers and institutions and how to do so.

“No other foreign jurisdiction in the world that has legalized euthanasia/assisted suicide forces health care workers, hospitals, nursing homes or hospices to act against their conscience or mission and values,” says Larry Worthen, Coalition member and Executive Director of the Christian Medical and Dental Society of Canada. “These conscience rights must be preserved. As we review this legislation, we will continue to advocate for the vulnerable and for conscience protection, which is provided 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.

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

“Our health care workers journey with those who are sick and suffering each day. We will continue to do this in a caring and compassionate way,” Worthen says. “We help patients at the end of life, what we object to is ending their life.”

The coalition contends Canada can significantly reduce the number of people who see death as the only possible option to end their suffering by improving medical and social services.

“Our worth as a society is measured by the support we give to the vulnerable,” said says Worthen. “We need increased access to palliative care, chronic disease and mental health services to help individuals who are suffering across the country.”

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 and the Catholic Health Alliance of Canada.

For more information, please contact:
Jeff Blay
Media Relations, Coalition for HealthCARE and Conscience
jblay@enterprisecanada.com
289-241-5114


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.

To learn more, visit CanadiansforConscience.ca

You shouldn’t lose your job because of your morals. Neither should your doctor.


We want doctors to be able to serve their patients instead of being pushed out of the practice of medicine.

But we need your help. Governments and medical associations will only agree if there is public support.

Visit MoralConvictions.ca to learn more and make sure your voice is heard.

Doctors’ Group urges Canadian Medical Association to defend conscience rights on assisted death

News Release

Christian Medical and Dental Society of Canada

HALIFAX, Aug. 24, 2015 /CNW/ – Larry Worthen, Executive Director of the Christian Medical and Dental Society of Canada (CMDS), urged the Canadian Medical Association (CMA), today, to support their members’ freedom of conscience when they meet on Tuesday, August 25th, to consider the CMA’s position on assisted death and conscience rights.

Said Larry Worthen, “Many physicians have moral convictions that will not allow them to participate in medical aid in dying. There should be no discrimination against a physician for her refusal to participate in medical aid in dying for moral or conscience reasons. That is why the Christian Medical and Dental Society of Canada urges the Canadian Medical Association to adopt the third option being presented to them by CMA staff: that physicians have a ‘duty to provide complete information on all options and advise on how to access a separate, central information, counselling and referral service.'”

The Canadian Medical Association will be discussing a policy framework called “Principled Based Approach to Assisted Dying in Canada” at their general council meeting in Halifax on August 25th. Section 5.2 of this document deals with physician conscience protection and assisted death. CMA staff will present four options for dealing with conscientious objection, and delegates will be polled on which option should be included in official CMA policy.

All options deal with the situation in which a physician is not able, for reasons of conscience, to participate in physician-assisted death. The four options are:

  1. Duty to refer directly to a non-objecting physician;
  2. Duty to refer to an independent third party;
  3. Duty to provide complete information on all options and advise on how to access a separate, central information, counselling, and referral service; or
  4. Patient self-referral to a separate central information, counseling, and referral service.

Options ‘1’ and ‘2’ require the objecting physician to refer. Many physicians will have moral convictions that assisted death is never in the best interests of the patient, while others may object to assisted death because of the particular circumstances of the patient. A referral is essentially a recommendation for the procedure, and facilitates its delivery. A requirement to refer means that physicians will be forced to act against their consciences.

Option ‘4’ allows the patient to directly access assisted death, but does not necessarily provide an opportunity for counseling by a physician who has a longer term relationship with the patient.

“Option ‘3’ allows the discussion of all options to occur with the patient and the physician who knows them. If, after considering all of the options, the patient still wants assisted death, the patient may access that directly. This option ensures that all reasonable alternatives are considered. It respects the autonomy of the patient to access all legal services while at the same time protecting physicians’ conscience rights,” added Mr. Worthen.

Option ‘3’ is a summary of a proposal submitted to the CMA by three organizations: the Christian Medical and Dental Society, the Canadian Federation of Catholic Physician Societies, and Canadian Physicians for Life. Taken together, they represent more than 3000 Canadian physicians.

CMDS (Christian Medical and Dental Society) represents some 1600 physicians and dentists across Canada.

See the complete CMDS-CFCPS-CPFL- proposal to the CMA 

 

Sask MDs, doctors’ groups ask for a hearing by College of Physicians and Surgeons

News Release

Christian Medical and Dental Society of Canada

SASKATOON, June 17, 2015 /CNW/ – Larry Worthen, Executive Director of the Christian Medical and Dental Society of Canada (CMDS), urged the College of Physicians and Surgeons of Saskatchewan (CPSS), today, to support freedom of conscience when they meet on Friday, June 19th, to consider a policy on conscientious objection. CMDS and other doctors’ groups are asking for a meeting with the College’s drafting committee to express their concerns.

Said Larry Worthen, “To ask physicians to act against deeply held moral convictions would be a clear infringement on physicians’ rights to the Section 2 fundamental freedoms of conscience and religion guaranteed by the Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedoms. The College’s Associate Registrar Brian Salte has ties to the Conscience Research Project led by one of Canada’s leading proponents of abortion, assisted suicide and euthanasia, and Mr. Salte has attended briefings of that group. We ask that the College would give us equal time to present our side of the argument and hear concerns about how this policy will affect patient care in Saskatchewan.”

Previous CPSS policy drafts required that physicians refer patients for procedures even when performing such procedures went against the moral convictions of the physician. Under the drafts, physicians would even be forced to actually perform procedures even though to do so would go against strongly held moral and religious convictions. Physicians who refused to comply would be vulnerable to sanctions up to and including losing their licences.

“No one’s interests are served by effectively disqualifying certain Saskatchewan physicians from the practice of medicine,” said Worthen.

Roman Catholic and evangelical Protestant physicians hold grave concerns about the negative effects when they are forced to act against their consciences.

“Going against one’s conscience can cause moral distress which has been shown to affect patient care adversely. We need to have physicians who are free to bring their whole selves to their patients, including their compassion and their ethics,” said Mary Deutscher, member of the Roman Catholic Diocese of Saskatoon Justice and Peace Commission. “For Catholic physicians, participation in a formal referral makes them an accomplice in the procedure. This position is supported by many evangelical Protestant experts and other groups as well.”

This is also reflected in the positions of CMDS, Canadian Physicians for Life (CPL) and the Canadian Federation of Catholic Physicians’ Societies (CFCPS).

“Should the College choose to adopt this policy, it would assume the role of judge and jury deciding who could or could not exercise their constitutionally protected rights,” said Faye Sonier, CPL’s General Legal Counsel. “Physicians who cannot perform certain procedures due to their beliefs would become a class of citizens who fall outside the protection of the Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedoms.”

“Physicians who hold conscientious objections do so with profound respect for both the well-being and the autonomy of their patients. Their conscientious objections also stem from a deep commitment to the Hippocratic Oath,” said Dr. Thomas Bouchard, M.D., of the CFCPS. “In debates about conscience rights, the debate is often framed as a competition between the rights of a patient to access services versus the conscience of a physician. But physicians in these circumstances do not care solely about their conscience rights. These physicians also care deeply about the good of their patients.”

Self-referral is already a commonly exercised option among patients, including in respect of abortion services, across most of Saskatchewan. Self-referral allows the doctor to avoid being involved in facilitating the provision of the service, and the patient gets prompt access to the service.

A public opinion survey conducted May 20th-27th by Abingdon Research indicated that when a patient and doctor have different views on best treatment because of the doctor’s moral convictions, 47.5% of the Saskatchewan public felt that a patient could seek further advice or help from a different doctor without a formal referral, compared with 44.1% who felt the doctor should provide a formal referral. More than 53% of Saskatchewan residents felt that “nothing should happen to the doctor” who was unwilling to provide a treatment or a referral for reasons of moral conviction.

“Doctors represented by our groups are willing to discuss all procedures with their patients in a caring and objective way. We simply ask that when the patient makes a decision that the doctor cannot support for moral reasons that the patient access another service provider directly,” added Dr. Sheila Harding, M.D., a Saskatoon haematologist. “I have heard of many cases where doctor and patient agree to disagree and the patient returns to the physician’s practice after the procedure. If anything, the physician-patient relationship was enhanced.”

CMDS (Christian Medical and Dental Society) represents some 1600 physicians and dentists across Canada (cmdscanada.org). The Canadian Federation of Catholic Physicians’ Societies (canadiancatholicphysicians.com) represents groups from across Canada. Canadian Physicians for Life (physiciansforlife.ca is the national association of pro-life physicians and provides resources and educational opportunities to thousands of physicians and medical students each year.

SOURCE Christian Medical and Dental Society of Canada

For further information: Larry Worthen at 902-880-2495. Larry is available for interviews in Saskatoon after 10:00 a.m., Wednesday, June 17th, until Noon, Saturday, June 20th.

Ontario physicians seek court protection from CPSO policy

For immediate release

Christian Medical and Dental Society of Canada

TORONTO – Dr. Diane Haak, President of the Christian Medical and Dental Society (CMDS), Woodstock emergency room physician Dr. Michelle Korvemaker, and CMDS executive director Larry Worthen announced, today, that they have filed documents asking the Court to declare that a new College of Physicians and Surgeons (CPSO) policy infringes upon Ontario doctors’ freedom of conscience.

“My conscience and religious beliefs do not allow me to engage in procedures to which I have a moral, ethical or religious objection. I, and all physicians in Ontario, have the right to practice medicine according to my conscience and free from state compulsion,” said Dr. Korvemaker.

Dr. Haak added, “This policy may force physicians who do not feel they can refer or perform procedures that go against their conscience to leave the practice of medicine.”

CMDS filed an application for declaratory relief asking the court to declare that portions of the CPSO’s March 6, 2015, policy breach sections of the Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedoms.

Said Larry Worthen, ”We firmly believe that it is possible to ensure access to  controversial procedures and pharmaceuticals in Ontario without trampling upon the constitutional rights of physicians”

The CPSO policy violates freedoms of conscience and religion by requiring physicians and surgeons to make formal referrals when their consciences don’t permit their performing a procedure or treatment. The policy also violates Charter freedoms by requiring them to perform procedures when certain circumstances arise.

 CMDS Canada represents some 1600 physicians and dentists across Canada (http://www.cmdscanada.org). The Canadian Federation of Catholic Physician’s Societies is also supporting the application.

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For more information, please contact:      Larry Worthen  902-880-2495

Doctors make charter challenge on right to refuse care on religious grounds

Christian medical groups claim charter rights violated

CBC News

Christian medical professionals are challenging Ontario’s College of Physicians and Surgeons in court over a policy that requires doctors to provide or at least refer medical services, even when they clash with personal values.
In a statement of claim filed in Ontario’s Superior Court of Justice, two groups  –  the Christian Medical and Dental Society of Canada and the Canadian Federation of Catholic Physicians’ Societies  –  and five individual doctors say the college’s policy violates their rights under the Charter of Rights and Freedoms. . . [Full text]

Submission to the College of Physicians and Surgeons of Ontario

Re: Professional Obligations and Human Rights

Christian Medical & Dental Society, Canadian Federation of Catholic Physician Societies

The Christian Medical and Dental Society of Canada (“CMDS”) and the Canadian Federation of Catholic Physician Societies (“CFCPS”) welcome this opportunity to provide feedback to the College of Physicians and Surgeons of Ontario (“CPSO”) on the draft policy “Professional Obligations and Human Rights”. Together our organizations represent 1800 physicians, all of whom are seriously concerned about the implications of the policy and their ability to continue to practice medicine should the policy be passed.

Freedom of conscience

Freedom of conscience is protected under the Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedoms. As a creature of provincial statute, the CPSO is bound by the Charter, and must respect it. Yet this draft policy requires physicians to refer for, and in some cases carry out services that are contrary to their conscience. (Lines 156-168)

Conscience rights were recently reasserted by the Supreme Court of Canada in the Carter case. The Court confirmed that “a physician’s decision to participate in assisted dying is a matter of conscience” (para 132). The Court favourably cited the factum of the CMDS and CFCPS who had reproduced the comments of Justice Beetz in Morgentaler (para 132), who stated that a physician could not be compelled to participate in abortion. These comments are directly applicable to the draft policy and we urge the CPSO to revise the draft in light of the Supreme Court’s decision.

The reasoning of the Carter case can also be used to determine whether s.1 of the Charter can be used to limit doctors’ freedom of conscience. The Carter case made clear that in the absence of evidence that patients are being denied a Charter right, the Court will determine that it is not necessary to force physicians to refer patients or perform procedures in violation of the physician’s Charter right to freedom of conscience and religion. It is noteworthy as well, that the Charter does not apply to physicians, but rather, protects them. Under the principles in Carter physicians who object to engaging in certain procedures or pharmaceuticals, including through referrals, will be successful if they can show that there is a regulatory system that ensures access to procedures like abortion and euthanasia without incorporating the conscientiously objecting physician into the process of referral. This test is already met, because in Ontario patients can access abortion through self- referral. There is no reason to insist that a conscientiously objecting physician refer for abortion when the patient already can self refer.

Furthermore, it is not the CPSO’s role to ensure access to abortions. Even if it were, there would be an onus on the CPSO to prove that it cannot ensure access to abortions without infringing on the Charter rights of individual physicians (para. 118). A theoretical or speculative fear cannot justify an infringement (para. 119).

There is no human right in Canada to demand and receive particular services from a specific physician. Provincial human rights legislation prohibits discrimination against the public on a number of grounds that include among others, race, ethnicity, sex, religion, sexual orientation, age or disability. Human rights legislation does not dictate what services must be delivered. So, if a restaurant chooses not to serve pork because of the owner’s religious beliefs, there is no violation. If the restaurant chooses to exclude people of a particular ethnic group, however, that would amount to discrimination and a violation of provincial human rights legislation. In the same way, a physician who is unable to participate in a procedure or prescribe a pharmaceutical product for moral or religious reasons is not discriminating against his or her patient provided all patients are treated the same. Unfortunately, this draft policy suggests that a physician’s objection to a specific procedure or pharmaceutical may be a violation of a patient’s rights under the Charter or the Code. This reference makes clear that those who prepared this policy misunderstand the application and function of Ontario and Canadian law.

Provided the services are delivered in a respectful way, there are no competing rights. In such a case, the only human rights present are the physician’s human rights to freedom of religion and freedom of conscience. Furthermore, when the physician is an employee they have the additional right to be accommodated by their employer. [Full text]

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]

 

Doctors’ conscience rights under attack in birth control debate

One physician threatens to give up his practice rather than kill patients

BC Catholic

Deborah Gyapong

Doctors who refuse to prescribe birth control pills have become the focus of a debate over physicians’ rights to freedom of conscience and religion when practising medicine.

An Alberta doctor has been in the media spotlight recently for posting a notice at the clinic where she works she will not prescribe the pill and now faces a human rights complaint. Earlier this year, three Ottawa doctors came under fire for similar reasons. The Ontario College of Physicians and Surgeons (CPSO) is doing a public consultation on its guidelines that could be revamped to restrict doctors’ rights to abstain from legal medical practices on religious or conscientious grounds.

For Dr. Howie Bright, past president of the Canadian Federation of Catholic Physicians’ Societies (CFCPS), the attack on birth control is a “fairly discrete target because it sounds weird that a modern doctor” would not prescribe contraception and is likely to “generate reaction.” [Full text]