Physicians and the Ontario Human Rights Code:
Ontario Human Rights Commission attempts to suppress freedom of
Submission re: Physicians and the Ontario Human Rights Code
Catholic Civil Rights League
September 12, 2008
Reproduced with permission
Dr. Preston Zuliani
College of Physicians and Surgeons of Ontario
80 College Street
Toronto, ON M5G 2E2
Re: Physicians and the Ontario Human Rights Code
Dear Dr. Zuliani,
The following comments are with respect to the CPSO's draft document
"Physicians and the Ontario Human Rights Code." The Catholic Civil Rights
League is a national non-profit association dedicated to upholding religious
and conscientious freedom.
While the effort to help physicians comply with changes to the operations
of the Ontario Human Rights Code is commendable, parts of this draft raise
significant concerns for freedom of religion and conscience.
The draft policy states, "Physicians should be aware that decisions to
restrict medical services offered, to accept individuals as patients or to
end physician-patient relationships that are based on moral or religious
belief may contravene the Code, and/or constitute professional misconduct."
This strongly suggests an unreasonable limitation on physicians' ability to
exercise religious and freedom in their professional practices.
As the draft document states, religious and conscientious beliefs are an
integral part of the person. Therefore, the statement below is somewhat
Personal beliefs and values and cultural and religious
practices are central to the lives of physicians and their patients.
However, as a physician's responsibility is to place the needs of the
patient first, there will be times when it may benecessary for physicians to
set aside their personal beliefs in order to ensure that patients or
potential patients are provided with the medical treatment and services they
Canada has an established custom of accommodating sincerely held
religious and conscientious convictions as much as possible. The expectation
that physicians must set aside their beliefs with regard to treatments or
referrals that violate their conscience is unreasonable, and at odds with
the CMA's Joint Statement on Preventing and Resolving Ethical Conflicts
Involving Health Care Providers and Persons Receiving Care (1998); also
Journal of the Canadian Medical Association, April 24,07).
Another statement of concern: "Physicians should not express personal
judgments about the beliefs, lifestyle, identity or characteristics of the
patient or potential patient." I suggest this is an overly general
expectation to put on a professional who might reasonably be expected to be
critical of smoking, drug abuse, excessive eating and drinking or a
too-sedentary lifestyle. Even matters of belief might not be beyond the
doctors' professional guidance should these beliefs involve anti-social, and
particularly anti-female attitudes that could victimize a patient's family.
It is our hope that the review process allows the profession to formulate
guidelines that offer the best possible protection for freedom of religion
and freedom of conscience for all concerned. With two private member's bills
favouring euthanasia put before Parliament in the past five years, it's
certainly not inconceivable that Canada will have a liberalized law at some
future date, which could raise ethical dilemmas even more acute than those
we have today.
Thank you for considering these remarks.