Church calls for Scottish Bill to back medics’ conscience rights

Scottish Catholic Observer

Amanda Connelly

The Catholic Church in Scotland has called for a bill that gives medical professionals the right to conscientiously object to medical procedures such as abortion.

The comments come after Baroness O’Loan’s new Conscientious Objection (Medical Activities) Bill for England and Wales, which looks to ensure conscience rights for medical professionals, had a second hearing in the House of Lords on Friday January 26.

“While the bill only applies to England and Wales, its progress should be of interest to people in Scotland, where hopefully a similar bill could be presented to the Scottish Parliament,” director of the Catholic Parliamentary Office Anthony Horan said. . . . [Full text]


Divisional Court Accepts Religious and Conscientious Infringement on Ontario Doctors

News Release

Catholic Civil Rights League

TORONTO, ON January 31, 2018 – The Catholic Civil Rights League (CCRL) is gravely disappointed in the ruling released today by the Ontario Divisional Court in the case CMDS et al v. CPSO.

The application was brought by several religious physicians and groups to challenge the mandate of the College of Physicians and Surgeons of Ontario (CPSO), that requires doctors who object to certain procedures on religious or conscientious grounds, such as assisted suicide, to provide nevertheless, an “effective referral” to another physician or caregiver who would perform the service.

The court upheld the policy that requires life affirming physicians to act against their religion and conscience.

It is an alarming development which places Ontario doctors at the risk of professional complaints for refusing to make such referrals.

While finding that the CPSO policies were in breach of the constitutional right to freedom of religion (the court declined to make a ruling on freedom of conscience given its assessment), it found that the policy choice of the CPSO engaged a “reasonable limit” on the exercise of such freedoms.  Speaking on behalf of the three-member panel, Mr. Justice Wilton-Siegel asserted that the CPSO limit on such rights, while not trivial, did not create a substantial infringement, even if it meant forcing a physician to violate one’s conscience, to accommodate his or her practice choices, even to the extent of stepping aside from certain practice areas.

The CCRL has maintained that the CPSO’s insistence on obligating Ontario physicians to perform an “effective referral” for objectionable procedures does nothing to honour the Charter right of freedom of conscience and religion. Rather it is a breach of a physician’s rights and a serious incursion into the professional standing of a physician.

A proper balancing of the rights of physicians with the concept of patient autonomy must not result in the trumping of the rights of physicians in their medical practices.  Such rights extend not only to refusing to perform assisted suicide and euthanasia, but the right not to be obliged to refer to other practitioners who may be willing to provide such services. This clearly constitutes participation in wrong.

According to a recent statement from the John Paul II Academy for Human Life and the Family:

“Seeking to impose on a doctor the duty to perform abortions or euthanasia (or, alternatively, to leave the medical profession or a given hospital), or to impose on him the duty to refer a woman to an abortionist, is gravely sinful and a direct violation of his inalienable human dignity and freedom of conscience.”

“The same also applies to the case where a prolife physician is claimed to be obliged to refer a patient (who requests physician-assisted suicide or euthanasia) to a colleague who would perform such acts.  Not only is the prolife physician not obliged to refer a patient to a colleague who would perform intrinsically wrong acts, he is also absolutely morally forbidden to do so,” they continue.

Speaking to the fallacy of the imposition of personal autonomy on others, “One can hardly imagine a worse perversion of moral truth and natural right than the idea that a person has a right to demand that other persons commit the crime to murder him. Nobody has any right whatsoever to demand from society to assist him to commit a crime against himself, or to oblige others to commit the crime of murdering him.”

“Quite the contrary, the others and the State, in virtue of their true moral autonomy, a moral autonomy subjected to the truth, have the absolute moral duty to reject such a request.”

The CCRL asserted in our legal argument, and relying upon previous authorities, that in a free and democratic society, the state should respect choices made by individuals and, to the greatest extent possible, will avoid subordinating these choices to any one conception of the good life.

Demanding that someone participate in perceived wrongdoing demands the submission of intellect, will and conscience, reducing the person to the status of a thing, to a tool to be used by others, to servitude that cannot be reconciled with principles of equality. It is an assault on human dignity that deprives physicians of their essential humanity.

The court missed an opportunity to require the CPSO to create a policy that would recognize that doctors have different views of what proper accompaniment of vulnerable patients entails.  Many patients not only share the views of the appellants, but also desire to be served by physicians who hold such views. Such doctors care deeply about their patients, and do not wish to be engaged in “referring” patients to their unnatural deaths.

The court instead accepted the arguments of the CPSO and has given its approval to a policy that serves to infringe upon the rights of such physicians.  Such an infringement is by no means insubstantial.

An appeal is required.

About the CCRL

The Catholic Civil Rights League (CCRL)) assists in creating conditions within which Catholic teachings can be better understood, cooperates with other organizations in defending civil rights in Canada, and opposes defamation and discrimination against Catholics on the basis of their beliefs. The CCRL was founded in 1985 as an independent lay organization with a large nationwide membership base. The CCRL is a Canadian non-profit organization entirely supported by the generosity of its members.

For further information: Christian Domenic Elia, PhD CCRL Executive Director 416-466-8244 @CCRLtweets

Medically assisted dying: What happens when religious and individual rights conflict?

Lawyer Allison Fenske explains how Canadian law works, and how the courts strive to balance competing rights

CBC News

A Winnipeg man’s struggle to be assessed for a medically assisted death while he lives at a faith-based hospital has some questioning how we balance personal and religious rights in Canada.

“I want to die and nobody should come in the way of my deciding how to go about it,” Cheppudira Gopalkrishna, 88, said on Saturday.

However, because Gopalkrishna lives at a faith-based hospital that objects to medical assistance in dying, he has struggled to be assessed by Manitoba’s MAID team under provincial guidelines regulating such deaths. . . [Full text]


Winnipeg man receives assisted-death assessment after concerns faith-based hospital caused delay

‘I want to die and nobody should come in the way of my deciding how to go about it.’

CBC News

An 88-year-old Winnipeg man has received his required assessment for medically assisted death after he says it was delayed by the faith-based hospital where he now lives.

On Friday, Cheppudira Gopalkrishna was able to do an assessment with the province’s Medical Assistance in Dying (MAID) services.

“I want to die and nobody should come in the way of my deciding how to go about it,” Gopalkrishna said on Saturday evening.

The former teacher has been at the Misericordia Health Centre for several months after his health declined significantly. He has a form of Lou Gehrig’s disease, also known as ALS, and has lost almost all of his mobility.

Gopalkrishna started looking into the possibility of a medically assisted death in May but the hospital and the Winnipeg Regional Health Authority’s timelines differ about what happened next. . . [Full text]


Canada’s assisted suicide law spurs a ‘campaign for conscience’

Isabella Buenaobra

WINNIPEG, Manitoba — A significant health care-related federal legislation was enacted by the Canadian Parliament on June 17, 2016: The Euthanasia/Assisted Suicide law creates a regulatory framework for medical assistance in dying in Canada.

With the legislation, Canada has joined The Netherlands, Belgium, Sweden and Luxembourg. which have enacted rules on doctor-assisted suicide. . .

Bill 34

In response to the passage of the (MAiD) Act, the Coalition for HealthCare and Conscience, a Canadian Christian-based organization, was organized to support the “Call for Conscience” Campaign. The campaign supports Bill 34—the Medical Assistance in Dying (Protection for Health Professionals & Others) Act, currently being considered by the Legislative Assembly of Manitoba. . . [Full text]


Waiting to die: Winnipeg man says faith-based hospital delayed access to assisted death

Timeline of events provided to CBC suggests Misericordia Health Centre delayed transfer of medical records

CBC News

Holly Caruk, Bruce Hoye

An 88-year-old Winnipeg man wants to end his life after being confined to a bed for several months with no chance of recovering and says the faith-based hospital where he now lives is delaying that request.

Cheppudira Gopalkrishna says the Misericordia Health Centre did not help him with his initial request to access the province’s Medical Assistance in Dying (MAID) services, and has since delayed the process further by taking too long to transfer his medical records and delaying an in-person assessment by the MAID team.

“I wouldn’t say [my request was ignored, but it wasn’t placed in the highest priority,” he said from his hospital bed.

The former school teacher has been at the Misericordia for several months, after his health declined significantly over the last year and a half. Gopalkrishna says he’s been told by doctors he has a form of Lou Gehrig’s disease, also known as ALS, and has lost almost all of his mobility.

Misericordia describes itself on its website as being affiliated with the Roman Catholic Archdiocese of Winnipeg. . . .[Full text]


Health minister says delayed access to medical assistance in dying ‘should not happen’

Cheppudira Gopalkrishna, 88, says Misericordia hasn’t helped him seek out medically-assisted death

CBC News

Manitoba’s Health Minister says he doesn’t know all the details of a terminally ill Winnipeg man’s search for medical assistance in dying, but he’s troubled by his first impression of the case.

Cheppudira Gopalkrishna, 88, told CBC News he has no chance of recovering from the illness that has confined him to bed for months, and the Misericordia Health Centre hasn’t helped him access the province’s medical assistance in dying (MAID) services.

However, the faith-based hospital — which is part of the Winnipeg Regional Health Authority — and the health authority’s MAID team offer differing accounts of what transpired and the timeline of Gopalkrishna’s request. . . . [Full text]


Catholic leaders attack ‘erosion of respect’ for doctors who oppose abortion

Christian Today

Harry Farley

Catholic heads in the UK are issuing a robust defence of the Church’s abortion teaching after criticism of bishops’ stance from within the Catholic hierarchy.

Describing having a termination as a ‘grave decision’ the two leaders of the Catholic Church in England, Wales and Scotland attack the ‘contradiction’ in abortion laws for disabled babies and praised politicians who try to change the law.

They also lambast an ‘erosion of respect’ for those who oppose abortion, saying doctors and nurses ‘face increasing difficulty in being able to combine their dedicated professional work with their personal conviction’.

Pointing to recent cases where doctors and pharmacists feel they cannot refuse to offer abortion services, the senior bishops write: ‘So much talent is being lost to important professional areas. Personal conscience is inviolable and no-one should be forced to act against their properly formed conscience in these matters. This is something which needs greater debate in our society.’ . . . [Full Text]


Dáil committee not open-minded on Eighth Amendment, says bishop

Bishop Kevin Doran says health workers ‘have no recourse to conscientious objection’

Irish Times

Patsy McGarry

The Oireachtas Committee on the Eighth Amendment “would appear to have long since made up its mind” on repealing the constitutional ban on abortion, Bishop of Elphin Kevin Doran has said.

The chairman of the Catholic bishops’ consultative group on bioethics empathised with people who did not wish to co-operate with its proceedings. . .

Bishop Doran was speaking to The Irish Times at a conference, Abortion, Disability, and the Law, in Athlone on Friday. . .

Earlier Bishop Doran told the conference that the manner in which conscientious objection was being interpreted “in the so-called Protection of Life in Pregnancy Act gives rise to real concern”.

Doctors and nurses “are allowed under the Act to opt out of providing or participating in abortion, provided they refer the patient to someone else who will perform the procedure”, he said. “In other words, they are still required to participate in what they believe to be fundamentally immoral. Healthcare administrators have no recourse to conscientious objection.” [Full text]


The status of the human embryo in various religions

William Neaves


Research into human development involves the use of human embryos and their derivative cells and tissues. How religions view the human embryo depends on beliefs about ensoulment and the inception of personhood, and science can neither prove nor refute the teaching of those religions that consider the zygote to be a human person with an immortal soul. This Spotlight article discusses some of the dominant themes that have emerged with regard to how different religions view the human embryo, with a focus on the Christian faith as well as Buddhist, Hindu, Jewish and Islamic perspectives.

Neaves W. The status of the human embryo in various religions. Development 2017 144: 2541-2543; doi: 10.1242/dev.151886