Freedom to Care: The Threat to Conscience Rights in Medicine

The CMDS web page has additional information on this issue on their web site including posters, newsletter inserts, talking points, instructions on how to access the Colleges and answer their surveys, legal opinions, articles and our brief to the OMA.

The deadlines for public input are looming – Ontario is February 20th, Saskatchewan is March 6.

Please help by spreading the word about their video and resources to your contacts. This might spur more people on to getting involved in this issue and expressing their concerns to the colleges.

Submission to the College of Physicians and Surgeons of Ontario

Re: Professional Obligations and Human Rights

Christian Medical and Dental Society

I am generally able to agree with the draft policy Physicians and the Ontario Human Rights Code. Physicians should not discriminate against their patients nor should physicians impose their religious beliefs on a patient. Patients should be adequately informed of their options for care. The majority of the policy outlines this nicely.

Despite the first part of the policy reading well, I do not believe this is a policy that should be adopted. Lines 156-168 are very concerning. All Canadians, under The Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedoms, have the right to live according to their religious and moral beliefs. Stating that a physician must refer a patient for a service that goes against his or her conscience disqualifies that right. It reduces his/her personal sense of integrity and creates internal conflict that may force very compassionate and effective physicians out of practice. It would not affect the right of the patient to receive care since a procedure such as abortion can be self-referred and, if a patient disagrees with a physician’s perspective, they are able to obtain a second opinion.

Presently, the Supreme Court of Canada is considering a case that may lead to the legalization of euthanasia in Canada. Should this happen, the draft policy could obligate physicians, who strongly feel that killing is wrong, to participate in an act of killing, i.e. euthanasia or physician assisted suicide. This is very concerning.

This past spring and summer the College conducted an online survey with the question “Do you think a physician should be allowed to refuse to provide a patient with a treatment or procedure because it conflicts with the physician’s religious or moral beliefs?”. Yes votes amounted to 25,230 or 77% of the total count. This is a large majority in favour of physicians being able to practice according to their consciences. This is a very large sample of the population (32,912) that voted. I am amazed, then, that the College should disregard this viewpoint as lines 156-168 of the draft policy indicate.

I sincerely hope that you will reconsider adoption of this policy. Revision of lines 156-168 to omit the obligation to refer for or, in certain cases, perform procedures that go against their moral or religious beliefs should be made. Anything less than that would go against The Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedoms, against the popular vote in Ontario and certainly against the well-being of many Ontario doctors.

Christian Medical Professionals support Alberta bill

News Release

Christian Medical and Dental Society (CMDS)

The Calgary and Edmonton Chapters of the Christian Medical and  Dental Society of Canada are in support of Bill 212, The Human Rights, Citizenship and Multiculturalism Amendment Act, which would protect healthcare workers’ conscience rights.

Increasingly, we hear of institutions and organizations placing pressure on healthcare     workers to act contrary to their convictions, especially as technological advances     challenge traditional ethical boundaries. Canada has a long history of recognizing the     rights of freedom of conscience; however, healthcare workers are feeling increasingly     vulnerable. Many are calling for explicit legislation to protect them from being required  to refer for or participate directly or indirectly in medical procedures or treatments  that violate their convictions without fear of discrimination, dismissal, or harassment.

Certainly, physicians and other healthcare workers must provide care in  life-threatening emergencies to all people regardless of ethnic origin, creed, etc.: this  is consistent with the Hippocratic tradition. Also in keeping with the Hippocratic tradition is the inviolable tenet that human life is sacred, regardless of stage.  Consequently, those who solemnly hold these principles must not be pressured to act contrary to them as they are foundational to the integrity of the profession and the trust of the public. In matters of choice, healthcare workers are positioned to fully inform patients of all their legal options, but they must not be obligated to participate in a patient’s choice of treatment.

CMDS desires an open discussion of the issue of conscience-protection legislation and, to this end, invites healthcare workers to bring their concerns to the attention of their professional organizations, politicians, and members of the public.

For further information: In Calgary, contact Dr. W. Joseph Askin at 236-1500 In Edmonton, contact Dr. Gunnar Myrholm at 465-0951

Christian Medical and Dental Society (CMDS) #26, 7740 18 St. S.E. Calgary, AB T2C 2N5 Tel:  (403) 236-1500 Fax (403) 236-2839