Protection of Conscience Project to intervene in lawsuit against state medical regulator

News Release

For immediate release

Protection of Conscience Project

The Protection of Conscience Project has been granted joint intervener status in a constitutional challenge to policies of the College of Physicians and Surgeons of Ontario.

The Project is intervening jointly with the Catholic Civil Rights League (CCRL) and Faith and Freedom Alliance (FFA) in a lawsuit against the College launched by Ontario physicians and national physician organizations.

The joint intervention will defend freedom of conscience in the face of demands by the Ontario College of Physicians that physicians who refuse to kill patients or help them kill themselves must send them to a colleague willing do so.

“Unlike the CCRL and the FFA, the Project does not take a position on the acceptability of euthanasia or assisted suicide,” said Sean Murphy, Project Administrator.

“However, all three groups agree that those who object to the practices for moral, ethical or religious reasons should not be forced to provide or collaborate in them.”

The intervention will attempt to assist the court in defining a principled approach to the nature and scope of freedom of conscience.

Federal government policy a factor

The deliberate decision of the federal government to support coerced participation in homicide and suicide contributed to the Project’s decision to intervene.

“The federal government knew full well that the Ontario College was threatening to punish physicians who refuse to be parties to euthanasia and assisted suicide when it introduced Bill C-14 to set the groundrules for the procedures,” said Murphy.

“It could have prevented coercion by exercising its jurisdiction in criminal law. It could have made it a crime to force someone to be a party to homicide or suicide. It was repeatedly asked to do so. It steadfastly refused.”

Instead, Murphy said, “the Government of Canada chose to enable coercion, and to defend its support for coercion as ‘cooperative federalism.’”1

In contrast, the Project insists upon a foundational principle of democratic civility: that no one and no state institution may compel unwilling citizens to be parties to killing other people. Neither the state nor its agents nor others in positions of power and influence can legitimately order unwilling citizens to become parties to homicide and suicide, and punish them if they refuse.

The case is currently set for a hearing in mid-June.

Contact:
Sean Murphy, Administrator
Protection of Conscience Project
protection@consciencelaws.org


Notes

  1.  Minister of Justice Jody Wilson-Raybould, House of Commons Debates, Vol. 148, No. 055, 1st Session, 42nd Parliament, 13 May, 2016, p. 3312 (10:55)

Bill raises questions about delicate balance of doctor and patient rights near life’s end

CN Cronkite News

Arizona PBS

Saundra Wilson

PHOENIX – “Please don’t ask me to do that,” Dr. Paul Liu, a pediatric critical-care physician, said to grieving parents who had asked him to quietly end their child’s life.

Liu said he was frank with the parents, who wanted to put a stop to their sons’s suffering from a terminal illness. He advised them not to pursue an early death for their child because it’s not something they would want on their conscience.

“In their pain and suffering they wanted to end it much more quickly than natural courses would take,” said Liu, who recalled the story as he spoke in favor of Senate Bill 1439 at a Senate health and human services committee meeting this week. . . . [Full Text]

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At least six Manitoba hospitals refuse to provide euthanasia, assisted suicide

Faith-based hospitals reject euthanasia

Winnipeg Free Press

Kristin Annable

At least six faith-based health-care facilities in Manitoba — including two Winnipeg hospitals — will not be providing medically assisted deaths to their patients or long-term care residences.

Officials from St. Boniface Hospital told the Free Press Monday patients seeking medical assistance in dying will have to go to another facility to have the service offered.

Other medical care facilities under the Catholic Health Corp. of Manitoba umbrella, including St. Joseph’s residence in northwest Winnipeg, Ste. Rose General Hospital near Dauphin, and Winnipegosis and District Health Centre will also follow suit, explained the corporation’s CEO, Daniel Lussier. . . [Full text]

On assisted suicide, let’s remember that doctors have rights too

Waterloo Region Record

Luisa D’Amato

Physicians are supposed to save lives, not hasten death.

So it’s not surprising that some doctors are having problems seeing how they fit into Canada’s new law that legalizes physician-assisted suicide for some patients.

It turns out that conscientious objectors like Sandra Brickell, a physician who works in Kitchener hospitals, are not protected.

“When somebody wants to end their life, it goes against what we’ve been trained to do,” she said at a meeting Friday with several other doctors, Kitchener-Conestoga MP Harold Albrecht and Kitchener-Conestoga MPP Michael Harris. . . [Full Text]

 

Faith-based hospitals in Winnipeg ban medically assisted deaths

St. Boniface General Hospital and Concordia Hospital conscientiously object to legal practice

CBC News

Laura Glowacki

Two faith-based hospitals in Winnipeg say they will not be providing doctor-assisted deaths to their patients.

Both Concordia Hospital (Anabaptist-Mennonite) and St. Boniface Hospital (Catholic) say they will not offer the legal service to patients.

In June, the federal government amended the criminal code with Bill C-14 to allow doctors and nurse practitioners to help patients with “grievous and irremediable” illnesses to die. Manitoba introduced its own policy to implement medical assistance in dying, commonly called MAID, that same month. . . [Full text]

Health professionals to court: Don’t allow Vermont to force us to help kill patients

 News Release

Alliance Defending Freedom

RUTLAND, Vt. – Alliance Defending Freedom Senior Counsel Steven H. Aden and ADF-allied attorney Michael Tierney will be available for media interviews Tuesday following a federal court hearing in a health care professionals’ lawsuit against Vermont officials in two state agencies. The medical professionals are asking the court to stop those agencies from forcing physicians and other health care workers to help kill their patients while their lawsuit proceeds and are asking the court to reject the agencies’ request to dismiss the lawsuit.

ADF attorneys and Tierney represent the Vermont Alliance for Ethical Healthcare and the Christian Medical and Dental Association, groups of medical professionals who wish to abide by their oath to “do no harm.”

“The government shouldn’t be telling health care professionals that they must violate foundational medical ethics in order to practice medicine,” said Aden, who will argue before the court Tuesday. “Because the state has no authority to order them to act contrary to that reasonable and time-honored conviction, we are asking the court to allow this lawsuit to proceed and to ensure that no state agency is able to force them to violate their ethics while this lawsuit moves forward.”

The state agencies, the Board of Medical Practice and the Office of Professional Regulation, are reading the state’s assisted suicide law to require health care professionals, regardless of their conscience or oath, to counsel patients on doctor-prescribed death as an option. Although Act 39, Vermont’s assisted suicide bill, passed with a very limited protection for attending physicians who don’t wish to dispense death-inducing drugs themselves, state medical licensing authorities have construed a separate, existing mandate to counsel and refer for “all options” for palliative care to include a mandate that all patients hear about the “option” of assisted suicide.

As the brief in support of the requested motion for preliminary injunction in Vermont Alliance for Ethical Healthcare v. Hoser explains, “Vermont’s Act 39 makes the State the first and only one to mandate that all licensed healthcare professionals counsel terminal patients about the availability and procedures for physician-assisted suicide, and refer them to willing prescribers to dispense the death-dealing drug. Act 39 coerces professionals to counsel patients about the ‘benefits’ of assisted suicide—benefits that Plaintiffs’ members do not believe exist—and in addition stands in opposition to a federal law protecting healthcare professionals who cannot participate in assisted suicide for conscientious reasons.”

“Because Plaintiffs’ attempts to repeal or amend the law have proven futile, and enforcement is imminent,” the brief continues, “Plaintiffs…[ask] for a preliminary injunction enjoining Defendants from enforcing the provisions of Act 39…and its incorporated statutes…against their members for declining to counsel or refer patients diagnosed with ‘terminal conditions’ on the availability of physician-assisted suicide.”


Alliance Defending Freedom is an alliance-building, non-profit legal organization that advocates for the right of people to freely live out their faith.

 

Ontario adds wording to legislation recognizing conscience rights of hospitals

Toronto Sun

Liz Payne

The Ontario government has quietly amended its proposed Patients First Act with wording that appears to strengthen the rights of faith-based hospitals to opt out of assisted death.

The proposed amendment, which was not originally in the act, appeared when it was re-tabled last month after the legislature was prorogued. The act, according to the province, is aimed at improving health care for patients and their families. . . [Full text]