Physicians, conscience, and assisted dying

By requiring that physicians make referrals for assisted dying, Ontario is forcing them to leave medicine or abandon their ethical framework.

Policy Options

Deina Warren,* Derek Ross*

Of all the jurisdictions worldwide that permit some form of assisted suicide, Ontario stands alone in mandating that physicians participate in it. . . [C]ompelling physicians to participate in MAID results in the state deciding what everyone should believe; and second, it undermines physicians’ moral integrity, a foundational component of medical ethics and principled health care. . . [Full text]

MPP Yurek introduces private member’s bill to protect conscience rights

News Release

For immediate release

Jeff Yurek

QUEEN’S PARK – This morning Ontario PC Health Critic MPP Jeff Yurek (Elgin-Middlesex-London), introduced his private member’s bill that would amend the government’s medical assistance in dying (MAID) legislation to protect the conscience rights of health care providers.

Yurek’s bill, An Act to amend the Regulated Health Professions Act, 1991 with respect to medical assistance in dying, will make participation in MAID voluntary. The amendments will allow health care professionals to refuse to directly or indirectly participate in MAID if it violates their conscience or religious beliefs, without facing discipline from their regulatory college.

“There are ways for the government to ensure access to MAID while not infringing on freedom of conscience,” stated Yurek. “Provinces such as Alberta have proposed a self-referral system that respects patient wishes while not infringing on freedom of conscience. These are basic rights we have in Canada that the Liberals are ignoring. Not only did they Liberals omit protection of conscience rights in their legislation, they voted against Ontario PC amendments that would have addressed this important issue.”

“Only the PCs have continued to stand beside our doctors, nurses, and other health care professionals.  They should under no circumstances should be forced to participate in medical assistance in dying. It is my hope that the Liberal members will support my Bill to protect the rights of health care professionals across our province.” concluded MPP Jeff Yurek

The bill will be debated on May 18, 2017.

CONTACT: Whitney McWilliam
P: 226-448-6741

No conscience rights protection for health care providers

The Sachem
Reproduced with permission

Sam Oosterhoff

In March, I attended hearings for Bill 84, the Medical Assistance in Dying legislation put forward by the provincial Liberals.

I listened to doctors, nurses, ethicists, religious leaders and human rights advocates who had travelled from across Ontario to bring forward their concerns about this law. After the federal Liberal government legalized physician assisted suicide last year, they wanted to ensure there was adequate consultation in the provincial implementation.

Faced with the situation of legal physician assisted suicide, health professionals need clear and explicit conscience protection so that they will not be forced to take part and contradict their deeply held personal convictions.

Conscience rights are fundamental human rights which are clearly protected in our country under Section 2(a) of the Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedoms. Yet Bill 84 offers no protection for the conscience rights of health professionals.
Since Bill 84 was introduced last December, my office has been flooded with phone calls, emails, and visits from constituents who are concerned with the lack of conscience protections in the bill.

Some doctors say that they would have to leave the practice of medicine in Ontario if they were forced to act against their conscience. Physicians should not be punished for conducting their work according to their most deeply-held ethical or religious convictions.

The Ontario PC Party put forward two amendments that would have provided robust conscience protection. We believe health care professionals should not be forced to refer for, perform or assist in physician assisted suicide against their will and should not be discriminated against for taking this stand. Unfortunately both amendments were rejected by the Liberal majority on the committee.

Larry Worthen of the Coalition for HealthCARE and Conscience told the committee: “We want to reassure you that there is another way. No foreign jurisdiction that has legalized assisted suicide has required doctors or nurses to participate against their will, and there’s no indication that this has caused any crisis in access. Other provinces — specifically Alberta — have come up with innovative options.” Ontario can and should do the same.

My colleague Jeff Yurek, the health critic for the PC Caucus, will be introducing a Private Member’s Bill in May as another way to fight for conscience protection in Ontario.  I will continue to fight for conscience rights, and I encourage you to contact my office to share your thoughts and perspective on this very sensitive and important issue.

Sam Oosterhoff is the MPP for Niagara West-Glanbrook