Act to Ensure Protection of Conscience in Health Care
(Model of a procedure-specific protection of conscience law)
A protection of conscience law can be a general, procedure-specific or hybrid statute.
General protection of conscience legislation offers protection in relation to all procedures or services to which health care personnel might object for reasons of conscience, without specifying them. It provides the broadest and most flexible protection.
Procedure-specific legislation offers protection in relation to specific procedures or services that are acknowledged to be morally controversial, such as abortion or euthanasia. Procedure-specific legislation may be more politically viable, but it is inflexible (unresponsive to new technological developments generating ethical conflicts) and narrow (applying only to the specified procedures).
Hybrid protection of conscience legislation offers protection in relation to certain classes of procedures, services or activities that are acknowledged to be morally controversial. It may attract less opposition than a general law, but more than a procedure-specific law.
The model presented below is a procedure-specific protection of conscience statute.
Readers will find other
approaches to legislative drafting under existing
and proposed protection of
WHEREAS freedom of conscience is a fundamental freedom in any liberal, democratic society professing pluralism and tolerance and is recognized in international law and conventions;
WHEREAS the exercise of freedom of conscience entails doing what one believes to be good or right and refusing to do what one believes to be evil or wrong, and is not merely a manifestation of personal preference, prejudice, comfort, or emotions;
WHEREAS health care personnel have a single conscience that informs both personal and professional judgement, and which must be applied in their daily work;
WHEREAS denying freedom of conscience to health care personnel reduces them to mere functionaries of the state, patient or legal system and prevents the conscientiously informed exercise of professional judgement that is essential in their daily work;
WHEREAS the exercise of professional judgement informed by conscience must translate into the freedom not to participate in practices or activities forbidden - expressly or by implication - by sincerely and deeply held moral or ethical beliefs;
WHEREAS it would be incoherent to impose a duty to do what one believes to be unethical or contrary to the good of a patient upon health care personnel, while also demanding that they always act ethically in the service of a patient’s good;
WHEREAS the right of persons to non-discriminatory access to lawful services can be accommodated by facilitating access to the services in a manner that does not require health care personnel to do what they believe to be wrong;
[the following law is enacted]
1. Short Title
1. This Act may be cited as
The Protection of Conscience Act.
In this Act,
"contested service" means a service in which health care personnel are asked to participate, to which a person objects for reasons of conscience;
"designated service" means service defined in Part III.
"employee" includes a manager, supervisor or contractor.
"employer" includes a manager, supervisor or party to a contract for the delivery of services.
"health care personnel" includes physicians, pharmacists, nurses, midwives and any person providing medical, pharmacological or nursing treatment or health care.
"human individual" includes a human zygote, embryo, foetus and human individuals who have been born, whether or not they are recognized by law as human beings or human persons.
"patient" includes a lawfully designated substitute medical decision-maker.
i) prior consultation or planning;
ii) providing a professional opinion or rendering assistance in order to facilitate a procedure or make it more effective;
iii) recommendation or promotion, collaboration, or facilitation by referral or other means;
iv) counselling or education of persons in a manner suggesting that a contested activity is morally neutral or acceptable;
v) conduct that would make an individual a party to an offence or civilly liable if contested activities were criminal offences or torts;
vi) providing a service to which a person objects for reasons of conscience.
"person" includes a juridical person or juridical persons acting collectively in an identifiable institution, society, association or group, whether incorporated or not.
"reasons of conscience" means sincere adherence to
a) religious doctrine or precept, or
b) moral or ethical belief, or
c) philosophical principle
that is understood by the adherent to make it wrongful to participate in a designated service.
"service" includes interventions, treatments, procedures, services and activities.
OBLIGATIONS OF HEALTH CARE PERSONNEL
3. Notice to employers
3(1) Health care personnel must give reasonable notice to employers of religious, ethical or other conscientious convictions that influence their recommendations or practice or prevent them from participating in services that are likely to be requested of them so that employers can accommodate them.
3(2) Notice is reasonable if it is given
a) at the time health care personnel become employees; or
b) having become an employee, as soon as practicable after health care personnel first become aware that a conflict of conscience may arise.
4. Notice to patients
4(1) Health care personnel primarily responsible for management of patient care must give reasonable notice to patients of religious, ethical or other conscientious convictions that influence their recommendations or practice or prevent them from participating in services that are likely to be requested of them so that patients may, if they wish, consult or seek services from other health care personnel.
4(2) Notice is reasonable if it is given
a) before or at the time health care personnel assume primary responsibility for management of a patient's care; or
b) as soon as practicable after health care personnel who have assumed primary responsibility for management of a patient's care first become aware that a conflict of conscience may arise.
5. Providing information to patients
5(1) Health care personnel primarily responsible for management of patient care must provide patients with sufficient and timely information to make them aware of relevant services so that they can make informed decisions about accepting or refusing treatment or care.
5(2) For the purpose of this section:
a) Sufficient information means diagnosis, prognosis and a balanced explanation of the benefits, burdens and risks associated with each service.
b) Information is timely if it is provided so as to enable interventions that are most likely to cure or mitigate the patient's medical condition, prevent it from deteriorating further, or avoid interventions involving greater burdens or risks to the patient.
c) Relevant services include all legal and clinically appropriate services that may have a therapeutic benefit for the patient, whether or not they are publicly funded, including the option of no services or services not recommended by health care personnel.
5(3) Health care personnel who are unable or unwilling to comply with this section must promptly arrange for a patient to be seen by other health care personnel who can do so.
6. Exercise of freedom of conscience
6(1) In exercising freedom of conscience, health care personnel must adhere to the requirements of Sections 4 and 5.
6(2) Health care personnel who decline to participate in services for reasons of conscience must
a) advise affected patients that they may seek the services elsewhere;
b) when appropriate, communicate to a person in authority a patient's request for a complete transfer of care so that the person in authority can facilitate the transfer;
c) upon the request of an appropriate person in authority or the patient, transfer the patient's records to someone designated by the person in authority or patient.
6(3) Health care personnel may, upon request, if consistent with their convictions,
a) provide a referral; or
b) arrange for a transfer of care to other health care personnel; or
c) provide contact information for a person, agency or organization that provides or facilitates the service sought by a patient; or
d) provide general, non-selective information to facilitate patient contact with other health care personnel or sources of information about the service sought by the patient.
6(4) In acting pursuant to subsection (2) or (3) above, health care personnel must continue to provide treatment or care unrelated to the contested service unless health care personnel and patient agree to other arrangements.
6(5) Health care personnel unwilling or unable to comply with this section must
promptly arrange for a patient to be seen by other health care personnel who can do so.
7. Responding to emergencies
7(1) Subject to subsection (2), when a patient is imminently likely to suffer death or permanent serious injury if a service is not immediately provided, health care personnel must
(a) if no competent and willing health care personnel are available, participate in such services that are within their competence, including designated services; or
(b) immediately arrange for available competent and willing health care personnel to provide the service, including designated services.
7(2) This section does not apply when the service intended to prevent imminent death or imminent permanent serious injury to one person has been or is likely to be facilitated by a contested service resulting in the death or serious permanent injury of another person.
8. Designated services, definitions
8(1) Services designated for the purposes of this Act are
ii) artificial reproduction,
iii) assisted suicide,
iv) capital punishment,
v) contraceptive services,
vi) embryo transfer,
viii) embryonic experimentation,
ix) eugenic testing,
xii) human experimentation,
xiii) human transformation,
xiv) inter-species breeding,
xv) tissue trafficking,
8(2) In this section,
a) the inducement or
attempted inducement of the miscarriage of a female person, whether or not she is
b) deliberately causing the death of a human zygote, embryo
after implantation in the womb.
"artificial reproduction" includes the use
of any sexual or asexual means of bringing about, or attempting to bring
about, the formation of a human embryo, apart from an act of sexual
intercourse, such as artificial insemination and in
vitro fertilization, or human genetic engineering techniques,
including the manipulation of genetic materials, the use of artificial
genetic materials, or any combination thereof.
"assisted suicide" means any act
undertaken to help a person cause his own death, when
the act that actually causes death is performed or meant
to be performed by that person, with or without
"capital punishment" means
the execution of a sentence of death in
accordance with military law or the law of the place where sentence is
passed or to be carried out;
"contraceptive services" includes the provision of drugs, devices or
surgery for the purpose of preventing the fertilization of a human ovum by sexual intercourse;
"embryo transfer" includes the removal of a living human zygote, foetus
or embryo from the uterus or location where it was conceived;
"embryocide" means deliberately causing the death of a human
zygote or embryo after fertilization of a human ovum by human sperm and
before implantation in the
womb or a drug or device designed for that purpose;
"embryonic experimentation" includes any manipulation or surgical or pharmacological treatment of a human zygote,
embryo or foetus at any time after conception, but does not include treatment which is
intended to be directly therapeutic for the zygote, embryo or foetus itself;
"eugenic testing" includes any form of observation or measurement, one
purpose of which may be to identify illness or unwanted characteristics in a human being
or in a human zygote, foetus or embryo, so that the human being may be sterilized or
killed, or the human zygote, foetus or embryo aborted or killed;
"euthanasia" means any act or omission, with or without the consent
of the person who is the subject of the act or omission, which
a) is apparently intended to cause the
death of the person, or
b) is apparently intended to accelerate the death of the person,
and includes the
withdrawal or failure to
provide artificial nutrition and hydration or
ordinary medical treatment;
a) in the case of research data, the fabrication of research data or
the deliberate introduction of bias or error into research data by any
means, including addition, omission, suppression, misrepresentation,
emphasis, or de-emphasis, during any phase of an experiment, including the
design of the protocol, the material(s) and method(s) used, and the
analysis of the data obtained;
b) in the case of research claims, the fabrication of research claims or the
deliberate introduction of bias or error into research claims by any
means, including addition, omission, suppression, misrepresentation,
emphasis, or de-emphasis involving: research grant applications;
advertisements; computer programs; research committees; proceedings;
findings; reports; publications; conferences; or other medical or
c) in other cases, lying or deliberate misrepresentation or deception.
"human experimentation" includes any manipulation or surgical or
pharmacological treatment of a human being for the purpose of research, but does not
include treatment which is intended to be directly therapeutic for that human being;
"human transformation" includes the surgical, pharmacological or genetic treatment or manipulation of a human individual for the purpose of
a) erasing or transforming identifiably human characteristics, including age, race, ethnicity, sex or mental capacity or intelligence; or
b) incorporating non-human characteristics into a human individual.
"inter-species breeding" includes fusing or attempting to fuse human
gametes or genetic material with that of an animal;
"tissue trafficking" includes the handling, transfer, sale, barter, or
giving of tissue obtained, directly or indirectly, by means of abortion, artificial
reproduction, embryonic or human experimentation, embryo transfer, eugenic testing,
inter-species breeding, or the provision of contraceptive services.
any act or omission, whether or not it is legal under military law or the
law in force in the place where it occurs, by which
a) pain is deliberately inflicted on a person, or
b) an attempt is made to inflict despair or mental or spiritual anguish
on a person by
i) deprivation of air, food, water, shelter, clothing, hygiene,
privacy, companionship, sensory experience, medical treatment or
religious practice, or
ii) sexual touching or degradation, including seduction and exposure
pornographic or obscene materials, or
iii) enforced participation in acts proscribed or thought to be
proscribed by the person's religion, beliefs or moral principles, or
iv) the application of mind or mood altering substances, or
v) the application of extremes of temperature, light, sound, or smell
or the provision of unpalatable food or drink, or
vi) threats to cause death, pain or bodily harm to the person or
another person, or
vii) threats to do any of the above
for the purpose of punishment or personal gratification, to intimidate or
coerce the person or some other person, or to obtain information or a statement or purported consent.
PROTECTION OF CONSCIENCE
9. Compulsion prohibited
9(1) Every one commits an offence who, by an exercise of authority or by intimidation, compels another person to participate in a designated service when that person has indicated that he does not wish to participate for reasons of conscience.
9(2) For greater certainty, "intimidation" includes threats or suggestions that a person who refuses to participate will suffer discrimination or disadvantage.
10. Intimidation prohibited
10(1) Every one commits an offence who, for the purpose of inducing another person or
class of persons to participate in a designated service, intimidates or attempts to intimidate or influence that person or class of persons by threats or suggestions that participation in a designated service is a condition of
a) employment, contract, membership or fellowship;
b) advancement or full participation in a trade union, occupational or professional association, occupation or profession;
c) admission to an educational programme or institution;
d) occupational or professional qualification or certification.
10(2) Every one commits an offence who, for the purpose of inducing another person or
class of persons to participate in a designated service, intimidates or attempts to intimidate or influence that person or class of persons by threats or suggestions that failure or refusal to participate in a designated service may adversely affect
a) employment, contracts,
membership, or fellowship;
b) benefits, pay or advancement;
c) full participation in a trade union, occupational or professional association, occupation or profession, or admission to an educational programme or institution;
d) educational, occupational or professional qualification or certification
Every one commits an offence who
a) disciplines, suspends or dismisses a person or cancels his contract; or
b) reduces a person's pay, benefits, scholarships, bursaries, or occupational or professional rank or academic standing; or
c) revokes, suspends or adversely affects a person's membership, fellowship or full participation in a trade union, occupational or professional association, occupation or profession, or educational programme or institution; or
d) revokes educational, occupational or professional qualification or certification
because he failed or refused to participate or agree to participate in a designated service.
12. Discrimination prohibited
Every one commits an offence
a) refuses to employ or contract with a person or admit him to a trade union, occupational or professional association, occupation, profession, or educational programme or institution because he refused or failed to agree to participate in a designated service;
b) refuses to employ a person or admit him to a trade union, occupational or professional association, occupation, profession, or educational programme or institution because he refused or failed to answer questions about or discuss his willingness to participate in a designated service;
c) adversely affects the opportunities of persons to secure employment or admission to, or full participation
in a trade union, occupational or professional association, occupation, profession or educational
programme or institution unless they agree to participate in a contested activity or answer questions about or discuss their willingness to participate in a designated service.
13. Negotiated exemptions prohibited
13(1) A person who attempts to circumvent this Act by negotiating a contract or agreement contrary to it commits an offence.
13(2) All agreements contrary to this Act are of no force or effect.
14(1) Health care personnel who, in good faith, comply with this Act, shall not thereby be considered
a) negligent or guilty of professional misconduct;
b) guilty of unlawful discrimination against a person or class of persons.
14(2) In any proceedings alleging non-compliance by health care personnel with a provision of Part II, nothing in this Act shall be interpreted to exclude or restrict a defence based on Section 2 of the Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedoms or analogous provisions of provincial human rights statutes.
15. Existing duties
15. Nothing in this Act abrogates or limits the legal duties of employers or others in relation to accommodation and non-discrimination under human rights law with respect to services not included in Part III.
16(1) This Act does not apply when a participation in a designated service
a) is the principal duty of a
position for which a person was hired or for which an employer is seeking an
b) is required of a person in a position
created or designated in order
to accommodate the exercise of freedom of conscience by other persons;
and the designated service has been previously identified in writing as required
in advertising, contracts, job descriptions, and other
instruments referring to the position.
16(2) For the purposes of this section, a service is a principal duty if it is reasonably expected to occupy fully more than one half of the normal working hours of the person holding that position.
16(3) Nothing in this Act shall be understood to limit the power of professional or occupational regulatory authorities to make regulations that are not inconsistent with this Act.
17. Anyone who commits an offence under Part IV is liable on conviction
a) for a first offence, to imprisonment for 6 months, or to a fine of $1,000.00, or both;
b) for a second offence, to imprisonment for 6 months, or to a fine of $5,000.00, or both;
c) for each subsequent offence, to imprisonment for 6 months and to a fine of $10,000.00.
18(1) A court that convicts or discharges an accused of an offence under this Act, shall, at the time sentence is imposed, order the accused to pay to the
victim of the offence an amount by way of satisfaction or compensation for the loss of
wages and benefits which resulted from the commission of the offence.
18(2) Where a court has not been satisfied beyond reasonable doubt that an offence has
been committed, but is satisfied on the balance of probabilities that an accused engaged
in conduct prohibited in Part IV, the court shall not convict the accused
but shall order the accused to pay to the victim of the offence an amount by way of
satisfaction or compensation for the loss of wages and benefits which resulted from the
Enforcement of judgement
Where an amount that is ordered to be paid under
Section 18 is not paid forthwith, the victim of the offence may, by filing the order, enter as a
judgement in the Supreme Court of British Columbia, the amount ordered to be paid, and
that judgement is enforceable against the accused in the same manner as if it were a
judgement rendered against the accused in that court of civil proceedings.
20. Limitation of
No proceedings shall be commenced in respect of acts which are alleged to have contravened this Act more than 2 years after the date on which the acts are alleged to
have taken place.
21. Restriction on judicial intervention
An order from a court
directed to any person requiring participation in any designated service shall be deemed not to apply to any person who
objects, for reasons of conscience, to participation in such services.