Dr. Marc Gabel
College of Physicians and Surgeons of Ontario
80 College Street
Dear Dr. Gabel:
Re: Policy Review ‘Physicians and the Ontario Human Rights Code’
As the College of Physicians and Surgeons of Ontario prepares to review its policy on physicians and the human rights code, we are deeply disturbed by the many negative voices that have been urging the College to force doctors to “check their ethics at the door”. It should be obvious that now, only weeks after Quebec legalized euthanasia, we have arrived at the worst possible time in Canadian history to turn doctors into mere mechanics whose duty is to blindly do the bidding of their clients.
With euthanasia legal in Canada’s second-largest province, the debate about euthanasia and assisted suicide on the national level and in other provinces will only intensify. It is crucial that we preserve the right of our doctors to refuse to participate in such services even if they are legal.
Euthanasia and assisted suicide continue to be regarded as deeply unethical by many world religions, including Christianity, Judaism and Islam.
What is legal is no longer necessarily moral, and we would be unwise to place all our trust in the law as our shield, or to train our doctors to disregard their own ethical limits. Indeed, the properly formed conscience of our physicians may sometimes be the last moral and ethical boundary that protects us and provides us with life-affirming options and alternatives that respect our human dignity.
Canadians pride themselves on being a society made up of many cultures, religions and ethnicities. The freedom and democracy that underpin our pluralist society lead us to affirm the right of all citizens to participate fully in roles of leadership and the professional life, including the medical profession. Any policy that would require doctors to contravene their consciences and to breach their most deeply held values would be outrageously exclusionary and unacceptable, as it would chase out of medicine those principled physicians who refuse to violate the central teachings of many of our largest and most ancient religions. For such doctors, referral for actions that they believe to be contrary to their medical judgement, ethical principles and religious beliefs would be as unacceptable as providing them, as it would be tantamount to outright cooperation with the action in question.
We refuse to believe that this is the kind of Canada that any of us would want to live in. The freedom of conscience is a basic human right recognized by many international agreements and protected by the Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedoms. It is essential to a truly democratic society and foundational for the protection of all other human rights, including the freedom of religion.
As such, we strongly encourage the College, as it reviews its policy on this matter, to continue to protect an authentic freedom of conscience for all physicians. No Canadian citizen, including any physician, should ever be disciplined or risk losing their professional standing for conducting their work in conformity with their most deeply held ethical or religious convictions.
Rabbi Reuben Bulka
Congregation Machzikei Hadas, Ottawa
Terrence Prendergast, S.J.
Archbishop of Ottawa
Imam Sarni Metwally
Ottawa Main Mosque
President of the Ontario Medical Association
President of the Canadian Medical Association
President of the College of Family Physicians of Canada