New hope for Ontario doctors’ conscience fight

The Catholic Register

Michael Swan

New evidence heard in court has given Ontario’s medical conscientious objectors renewed hope.

Two days of hearings before the Ontario Court of Appeal Jan. 21-22 has provided Christian Medical and Dental Society (CMDS) executive director Deacon Larry Worthen a dollop of confidence as he waits for a decision from the three-judge panel.

“We gave a very good presentation,” Worthen told The Catholic Register after the appeal. “There were some new arguments. There was new evidence.”

The three-judge panel’s ruling has been reserved, with observers expecting a decision in March. . . [Full text]

Conservative MPP Yurek keeps up fight for conscience rights with bill

The Catholic Register

Evan Boudreau

The Ontario Liberals’ rejection of amendments to its assisted suicide legislation leaves MPP Jeff Yurek “very disappointed” but not defeated as the Conservative prepares to introduce a private member’s bill to protect conscience rights for doctors and health care workers.

On May 18, the Conservative’s bill will be brought forward to the legislature for an evaluation of the pros and cons. While Yurek expects scrutiny similar to that which faced Bill 84 amendments, he’s still hopeful to garner support from the majority of his political peers.

But that will require the votes of Liberal MPPs, who Yurek hopes will be influenced by their conscience and not the will of party leaders. . . [Full text]


Ontario Liberals give doctors no choice but to refer patients for assisted death

Lifesite News

Lianne Laurence

TORONTO, April 13, 2017 (LifeSiteNews) — A Liberal-dominated committee has refused to add conscience rights protection to Ontario’s bill regulating euthanasia and assisted suicide.

The finance and economic affairs committee voted down Progressive Conservative health critic Jeff Yurek’s proposed conscience rights amendments to Bill 84 on Tuesday.

The Liberal move leaves conscientiously objecting doctors with no protection against a College of Physicians and Surgeons of Ontario’s policy forcing them to give patients requesting euthanasia an “effective referral” — that is, to a willing and accessible colleague for the purposes of accomplishing the act. . . [Full text]


Ontario’s legislators under ‘tremendous pressure’ to amend Bill-84

The Catholic Register

Michael Swan

With more than 22,000 emails and letters in their in-boxes, Ontario legislators have rarely been under as much pressure to amend a bill as they have been over conscience rights for doctors in Bill-84.

In response, Ontario Health Minister Dr. Eric Hoskins has promised to have a “care co-ordination service” up and running as early as May. . .

However, Hoskins and the Liberals have so far avoided saying they would override the policy of the College of Physicians and Surgeons of Ontario which requires doctors to refer for medically assisted death even against their moral, religious and ethical convictions. . . [Full text]


The doctors’ dilemma

National Post (Editorial)

The College of Physicians and Surgeons of Ontario recently voted to require doctors who refuse to provide certain services for reasons of conscience to provide referrals to doctors who will.

The new policy, enacted over the objections of the Ontario Medical Association, is a marked departure from the old. It paints medicine as a battlefield, with equal and opposite freedoms repeatedly colliding. Thus the college graciously agrees to limit physicians’ freedom of conscience in order to safeguard patients’ right of access.

The problem is that “right of access” is a college creation, while freedom of conscience is enshrined in the Charter of Rights. Doctors make informed decisions about treatment constantly. If they did not refuse to prescribe some treatments and suggest others, they would not be professionals. A patient storming into an office demanding amputation to treat a broken arm does not have “right of access.” . . . [Full text]

Trampled rights

Catholic Register (Editorial)

Requiring doctors to remain pillars of integrity while chipping at their moral underpinning is an odious contradiction. Yet that is what the College of Physicians and Surgeons of Ontario proposes with a draconian new policy that tramples on conscience and religious rights.

The provincial regulatory body disregarded the majority view of 16,000 public submissions, dismissed the opinion of the Ontario Medical Association and the American Medical Association, and rejected the policy of the Canadian Medical Association when it voted 21-3 to force doctors to refer patients who seek treatments that their own doctor won’t provide due to moral or religious convictions. . . [Full text]

Doctors who refuse to provide services on moral grounds could face discipline under new Ontario policy

National Post

Sharon Kirkey

Doctors who refuse to prescribe birth control or other medical services because of their personal values could face possible disciplinary actions, Canada’s largest medical regulator says.

Moral or religious convictions of a doctor cannot impede a patient’s access to care, the College of Physicians and Surgeons of Ontario said Friday in a 21-3 vote supporting an updated Professional and Human Rights policy.

The policy makes clear: “You cannot kick someone out of your office without care,” said Dr. Marc Gabel, past president of the college and chairman of the policy’s working group.

Some council members said the new code, which the college expects physicians to comply with or face complaints of professional misconduct, could lead to “state-run” medicine, while others said the church has no place in a doctor’s office. . . [Full text]

UPDATED: Ontario doctors must refer for abortions, says College of Physicians

The Catholic Register

Michael Swan

TORONTO – Despite an overwhelmingly negative response from members of the public, physicians and organizations during a three-month online consultation, the Ontario College of Physicians and Surgeons voted 21-3 to force doctors to refer for abortions, contraception and other legal treatments or procedures even if they have moral or religious objections.

A last-minute submission from the Ontario Medical Association urging the college not to force doctors to act directly against their moral or religious convictions failed to sway the governing council of the college to reconsider wording that demands doctors provide “an effective referral to another health-care provider” despite personal convictions, whether religious or moral.

The college did not provide a statistical breakdown of the 16,000 submissions it received online, other than to say that 90 per cent were from members of the public and most were against the policy. . . [Full text]

Submission to the College of Physicians and Surgeons of Ontario

Re: Professional Obligations and Human Rights

Ontario Medical Association

The Ontario Medical Association is grateful for the opportunity to provide comments on the College’s draft policy Professional Obligations and Human Rights. The OMA undertook a broad member consultation to gather views on the draft policy. The OMA Board deliberated extensively on the draft policy and the implications it could have for physicians’ freedom of conscience. This Association struggles with endorsing the draft policy which, although progressive in its efforts to ensure patient access, forces physicians to take actions that may conflict with their fundamental beliefs. We disagree that enforcing a single, strict ‘rule’ governing physician behaviour when it comes to an issue as personal as moral or religious beliefs is feasible. We suggest that the College withdraw the current draft and undertake further study, particularly given the direct comment on point in the recent Supreme Court decision in Carter v. Canada.

Both patients and physicians are protected under the Ontario Human Rights Code as well as the Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedoms. That being the case, it is imperative that the policy does not undermine a physician’s right to freedom of conscience. Furthermore, the decision emphasized the need to reconcile patient and physician protections. The draft policy has not reconciled these protections since an “effective referral” (an affirmative action that contributes to the outcome) cannot be said to address the physician’s right to freedom of conscience. This recent Supreme Court decision provides further evidence that the policy must have flexibility in terms of the options available to physicians who are unable to provide services because of moral or religious beliefs.

We propose that this policy not focus on forcing physicians to perform services to which they object. Instead, the policy should focus on improving information about and access to alternative options. The OMA believes that in circumstances where the physician is unable to personally provide medical services, he or she must not impede the patient in accessing those services elsewhere. The issue of access when it comes to contentions medical services is a complex one that will require stakeholder collaboration to develop a more nuanced approach “Effective referral” represents only one tool – a fairly blunt one at that – we can use to resolve these conflicts. The policy should contemplate intermediate options. For example, the College might allow physicians to post general information about their scope of practice in a visible place for all patients. Another option would be for the policy to allow physicians to make generic referrals to third party organizations or agencies that maintain information about service providers. Incorporating any of these approaches would require further discussion.

We understand that the goal of this policy is to protect patient dignity and ensure patients can access the medical services they seek and we support that aim. However, we believe the College will have more success in achieving its goal if physicians are not forced to comply with a rigid process that may present serious moral dilemmas and diminish their dignity. In reassessing this draft policy, we urge the CPSO to consider the fact that physicians are also protected under the Code and that the College will be obliged to consider the Code when determining whether physicians’ conduct is consistent with the College’s expectations.

Thank you for considering these comments.

Canadian Medical Association softens stand on assisted suicide

Globe and Mail

André Picard

The Canadian Medical Association, which has a long-standing policy saying doctors should not participate in euthanasia or assisted suicide, is substantially softening its stance.

Delegates to the organization’s general council decided Tuesday that the CMA now “supports the right of all physicians, within the bounds of existing legislation, to follow their conscience when deciding whether to provide medical aid in dying.”

The carefully crafted position is an acknowledgment that, while assisting death is still a crime in Canada, the attitudes of Canadians, including those of physicians, are changing quickly, and so is the law.

While the group’s official policy has not changed, “it’s only a matter of time,” said Louis Francescutti, outgoing president of the CMA. Dr. Francescutti said the “conscience” resolution, which was adopted by an overwhelming 91 per cent of delegates, means that the CMA supports a doctor’s right to refuse to hasten the death of a terminally ill patient, but it will also support a doctor’s right to hasten death if the law allows.[Full text]