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Protection of Conscience Project

Service, not Servitude
Repression of Conscience

Ontario College of Physicians and Surgeons accommodates Christian physician

Barrie, Ontario, Canada (22 August, 2002)

Sean Murphy*

The Ontario College of Physicians and Surgeons has accepted a suggestion from Dr. Stephen Dawson that has resolved complaints lodged against him. Dr. Dawson, a Christian physician who practises in Barrie, Ontario, was charged for professional misconduct because he refused to prescribe birth control pills to four unmarried women.

Dr. Dawson now posts a policy statement in his waiting room that includes a statement that he will not prescribe birth control pills to unmarried women nor Viagra to unmarried men, nor will he arrange for abortions. He will not offer further information about his religious convictions except in response to queries from patients.

The resolution reflects the fact that there were two different issues at play in the case: the exercise of freedom of conscience, and the manner in which it was exercised. College spokesman Kathryn Clarke explained that the focus of the College was on the latter. "We simply wish to be assured that when he explains to his patients why he does not provide these services that he does so in a professional and respectful manner."

Dr. John Williams, director of ethics for the Canadian Medical Association, confirmed that physicians are not obliged "to do something that they feel is wrong", and do not have to refer patients in such cases. Dr. Williams made a similar statement in conversation with the Project Administrator in the spring of 2000.






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