Internal memos show how a handful of Canadian lawyers launched a national campaign against doctors’ conscience rights

LifeSite News

Steve Weatherbe

March 11, 2015 (LifeSiteNews.com) – Only a few weeks after Ontario’s College of Physicians and Surgeons voted to compel the province’s doctors to refer and even perform operations they consider immoral, Saskatchewan’s College is scheduled to follow suit. But all Canada’s provincial governing bodies have been urged to get on the bandwagon as part of a national campaign from an obscure, federally-funded coterie of pro-abortion, pro-euthanasia academics.

According to Sean Murphy, director of the British Columbia-based Protection of Conscience Project, the pro-abortion Conscience Research Group is the prime mover behind efforts by the leadership of the Ontario and Saskatchewan medical professions to force their members to do abortions, assist at suicides, and euthanize their patients upon request.

“Based on the correspondence I’ve seen,” Murphy told LifeSiteNews, “there does appear to be a movement to impose this on all doctors in Canada.” . . .[Full text]

Saskatchewan physicians to be forced to do what they believe to be wrong

Policy wording supplied by abortion and euthanasia activists

Policy would apply to euthanasia, if legalized.

Protection of Conscience Project News Release

The College of Physicians and Surgeons of Saskatchewan is proposing a draft policy demanding that physicians who object to “legally permissible and publicly-funded health services” must direct patients to colleagues who will provide them.  If another physician is unavailable, the College demands that they provide “legally permissible and publicly-funded” services,  even if doing so “conflicts with physicians’ deeply held and considered moral or religious beliefs.”

Physicians usually refuse to participate in abortion because they believe it is wrong to kill what the criminal law refers to as a child that has not become a human being.1 The proposed policy will require them to find a physician willing to do the killing they won’t do.  Should the Supreme Court of Canada legalize euthanasia, the policy will require objecting physicians who refuse to kill patients to find someone who will.

The seamless fit between referral for abortion and referral for euthanasia is not surprising.  The draft College policy was largely written by abortion and euthanasia activists, notably Professor Jocelyn Downie of Dalhousie University.

In a 2006 guest editorial in the Canadian Medical Association Journal, Professor Downie and another law professor claimed that objecting physicians are obliged to refer patients for abortion.2  Their views were vehemently rejected by physicians and repudiated by the Canadian Medical Association.3  Partly as a result of the negative response, Professor Downie and her colleagues in the “Conscience Research Group” decided to convince Colleges of Physicians and Surgeons to impose it.4

Saskatchewan’s draft policy is taken almost verbatim from their “Model Conscientious Objection Policy.”

The Conscience Research Group is  a tax-funded initiative that includes Professors Downie and Daniel Weinstock.5   Both  were members of an “expert panel” that recommended that health care professionals who object to killing patients should be compelled to refer patients to someone who would,6 because (they claimed) it is agreed that they can be compelled to refer for “reproductive health services.”7

Current efforts by the College of Physicians and Surgeons of Ontario to suppress freedom of conscience in the medical profession may have been influenced by the Conscience Research Group.  However, the College in Saskatchewan is the first to copy and paste its preferred model into a draft policy.

The Project insists that it is incoherent and contrary to sound public policy to include a requirement to do what one believes to be wrong in a professional code of ethics. It is also an affront to the best traditions of liberal democracy, and, ultimately, dangerous.

The College Council has approved the policy in principle, but will accept feedback on it until 6 March, 2015.


Notes:

1.  Criminal Code, Section 238(1). (Accessed 2014-12-02)

2. Rodgers S. Downie J. “Abortion: Ensuring Access.” CMAJ July 4, 2006 vol. 175 no. 1 doi: 10.1503/cmaj.060548 (Accessed 2014-12-02).

3.  Blackmer J. Clarification of the CMA’s position on induced abortion. CMAJ April 24, 2007 vol. 176 no. 9 doi: 10.1503/cmaj.1070035 (Accessed 2014-02-22)

4.   McLeod C, Downie J. “Let Conscience Be Their Guide? Conscientious Refusals in Health Care.” Bioethics ISSN 0269-9702 (print); 1467-8519 (online) doi:10.1111/bioe.12075 Volume 28 Number 1 2014 pp ii–iv

5.   Let their conscience be their guide? Conscientious refusals in reproductive health care: Meet the team.(Accessed 2014-11-21)

6.  Schuklenk U, van Delden J.J.M, Downie J, McLean S, Upshur R, Weinstock D. Report of the Royal Society of Canada Expert Panel on End-of-Life Decision Making (November, 2011) p. 101 (Accessed 2014-02-23)

7.   Schuklenk U, van Delden J.J.M, Downie J, McLean S, Upshur R, Weinstock D. Report of the Royal Society of Canada Expert Panel on End-of-Life Decision Making (November, 2011) p. 62 (Accessed 2014-02-23)

Entrenching a ‘duty to do wrong’ in medicine

Canadian government funds project to suppress freedom of conscience and religion

 Sean Murphy*

A 25 year old woman who went to an Ottawa walk-in clinic for a birth control prescription was told that the physician offered only Natural Family Planning and did not prescribe or refer for contraceptives or related services. She was given a letter explaining that his practice reflected his “medical judgment” and “professional ethical concerns and religious values.” She obtained her prescription at another clinic about two minutes away and posted the physician’s letter on Facebook. The resulting crusade against the physician and two like-minded colleagues spilled into mainstream media and earned a blog posting by Professor Carolyn McLeod on Impact Ethics.

Professor McLeod objects to the physicians’ practice for three reasons. First: it implies – falsely, in her view – that there are medical reasons to prefer natural family planning to manufactured contraceptives. Second, she claims that refusing to refer for contraceptives and abortions violates a purported “right” of access to legal services. Third, she insists that the physician should have met the patient to explain himself, and then helped her to obtain contraception elsewhere by referral. Along the way, she criticizes Dr. Jeff Blackmer of the Canadian Medical Association (CMA) for failing to denounce the idea that valid medical judgement could provide reasons to refuse to prescribe contraceptives. . .
Full Text

 

Conscientious refusal and health professionals: Does religion make a difference?

Bioethics. doi: 10.1111/bioe.12059

D. Weinstock

Abstract

Freedom of Conscience and Freedom of Religion should be taken to protect two distinct sets of moral considerations. The former protects the ability of the agent to reflect critically upon the moral and political issues that arise in her society generally, and in her professional life more specifically. The latter protects the individual’s ability to achieve secure membership in a set of practices and rituals that have as a moral function to inscribe her life in a temporally extended narrative. Once these grounds are distinguished, it becomes more difficult to grant healthcare professionals’ claims to religious exemptions on the basis of the latter than it is on the basis of the former. While both sets of considerations generate ‘internal reasons’ for rights to accommodation, the relevant ‘external’ reasons present in the case of claims of moral conscience do not possess analogues in the case of claims of religious conscience. However, the argument applies only to ‘irreducibly religious’ claims, that is to claims that cannot be translated into moral vocabulary. What’s more, there may be reasons to grant the claims of religious persons to exemptions that have to do not with the nature of the claims, but with the beneficial effects that the presence of religious persons may have in the context of the healthcare institutions of multi-faith societies. [Full Text]