Ontario doctors fight law forcing them to help kill their patients

The Interim

Five doctors and three doctors’ groups were in an Ontario court June 13-15 arguing a policy from the College of Physicians and Surgeons of Ontario (CPSO) violates their Charter rights to freedom of conscience and religion. The CPSO forces doctors to refer patients for euthanasia and abortion, even when it violates their conscience or religion. Kathleen Wynne’s Liberal government intervened on behalf of the college.

The 2015 CPSO policy requires that doctors who object on religious or conscience grounds to providing certain procedures such as abortion and euthanasia must give patients seeking these practices an effective referral. This means directly handing over a patient to another colleague who will follow through with an abortion or euthanasia request. The doctors argue this implicates them in the immoral practices to which they object. . . . [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.



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.

Legal group fights policy forcing pro-life doctors to refer for abortion, euthanasia

Lifesite News

Steve Weatherbe

TORONTO, February 13, 2017 (LifeSiteNews) – A Calgary conscience rights group has joined Ontario Christian doctors in fighting a requirement that they refer patients for euthanasia and abortion — and perform both procedures in emergencies.

The Justice Centre for Constitutional Freedoms (JCCF) was granted intervenor status in a legal action launched by five Ontario Christian doctors, the Christian Medical and Dental Society of Canada (CMDS), and other doctors’ groups.

Their target is the College of Physicians and Surgeons of Ontario, which controls the profession with the power to licence and de-licence doctors. In June, the Christian doctors will go to court in an attempt to have two new college policies ruled unconstitutional. . . .[Full text]


Groups worry new assisted-dying legislation doesn’t protect physicians’ consciences

Ottawa Citizen

Joanne Laucius

Assisted dying legislation tabled Thursday does not compel health care providers to help patients die, but some are worried the proposed bill won’t legally protect physicians who oppose the practice.

Medical professionals who provide assisted death would no longer have to fear criminal prosecution under the proposed legislation. On the other side, those who object to participating will not be forced to offer the service.

“Under this bill, no health care provider will be required to provide medical assistance in dying,” Health Minister Jane Philpott told reporters Thursday.

But some argue these assurances won’t offer legal protection to health care workers whose consciences won’t allow them to participate in assisted death. . . [Full text]


Submission to the College of Physicians and Surgeons of Ontario

Re: Professional Obligations and Human Rights

Justice Centre for Constitutional Freedoms


The draft Policy “Professional Obligations and Human Rights” (the “Draft Policy”) proposed to the College of Physicians and Surgeons of Ontario (the “College”) contains a number of critical legal errors, which render the affected portions of the Draft Policy constitutionally indefensible.

The Draft Policy incorrectly assumes that patients enjoy a legal right to access even controversial medical services from any and every physician. In fact, patients have virtually no legal rights to medical care. The Courts have expressly stated that there is no Charter right to health care, or to any particular health services. Conversely, the Charter expressly protects physicians’ religious and conscience rights. The civil government, and government bodies such as the College, cannot violate physicians’ Charter rights to freedom of conscience and religion unless such violation is demonstrably justified. In light of the context of health services in Ontario, the purposes of eliminating discrimination and promoting access to health care, while praiseworthy, do not justify the Draft Policy’s violation of physicians’ Charter rights.

The Draft Policy purports to address discrimination in the provision of health services, and repeatedly references Ontario’s Human Rights Code. However, a physician who is unable to provide or refer a patient for a particular health service on account of the physician’s sincere religious or conscientious belief is not engaging in discrimination; this inability or refusal does not violate the Code. The inability to provide or refer for that health service is not based on or related to the patient’s personal characteristics (e.g. age, gender, religion, disability, etc.). Rather, this inability to provide a particular service or referral stems from the physician’s religious or conscientious belief that the service in question causes harm.

Promoting access to health services is a commendable objective. No one could deny that in many areas health services are subject to undesirable even unacceptable delays. And despite the Supreme Court’s ruling in Chaoulli c. Quebec, 1 the effective prohibition of private health insurance impedes many Canadians in accessing timely health services. However, there is no basis on which to conclude that physicians, by exercising their freedom of conscience, actually impede access to health care. Some patients may occasionally experience minor inconvenience when informed by a physician that reasons of conscience prevent the physician from providing or referring with respect to a desired service. However, with an abundance of physicians and facilities available to perform such controversial services,2 patients will still receive these services in timely manner. The Draft Policy neither provides nor points to any evidence showing that controversial services such as abortion suffer greater delays in access to care than noncontroversial services, such as knee surgery.

The clinical aspect of the practice of medicine cannot be separated from the moral, religious and ethical beliefs of physicians that form an essential part of providing health services to other human beings. The Draft Policy’s attempt to separate the “clinical” from the “moral” in the practice of medicine is a dangerous and destructive step that contradicts the ethical foundations of medicine that have existed for millennia.

Government bodies such as the College have an obligation under the Charter and Ontario’s Human Rights Code to accommodate the religious and conscientious beliefs of physicians to the point of undue hardship. The Draft Policy ignores this obligation entirely, while incorrectly asserting a need to “balance” Charter rights with the wishes and desires of patients. These wishes and desires are not legal rights.

The Draft Policy’s requirement that physicians provide referrals for, and in some cases perform, services which they sincerely believe are morally wrong is grossly deficient from a Charter perspective, and if adopted would be found unconstitutional by a court. A referral is not a morally neutral action, as the College itself recognizes. Further, the drastic measure of forcing physicians to violate their consciences by performing services they believe are wrong is vague and subjective, making it impossible to qualify as a reasonable limit on physicians’ conscience rights. The College cannot point to evidence of a pressing need that would justify these requirements.

The College should seek to support physicians’ adherence to their own individual consciences.  Alternative measures which reasonably accommodate physicians with religious or conscientious objections should be developed and implemented. [Full text]