Proposed policy could severely limit freedom of Ontario physicians

Canadian Physicians for Life

For Immediate Release

(Ottawa) – In a letter today to the College of Physicians and Surgeons of Ontario, the president of Canadian Physicians for Life, Dr. Will Johnston, expressed concern over a draft policy relating to freedom of conscience and the lack of sufficient notice given by CPSO to all interested stakeholders that a consultation process, which officially ends today, has been underway since the end of June.

Canadian Physicians for Life is asking the College for a 90-day extension on the deadline “due to the importance of the issues at stake and the lack of opportunity interested stakeholders were given to comment on the proposal.”

The draft policy, that CPL only learned of late yesterday, would appear to severely limit the freedom of Ontario physicians to practice according to their conscientious/religious beliefs. The College apparently posted the draft policy document, “Physicians and the Ontario Human Rights Code” on its website at the end of June and had set a deadline of today for input on the proposal.

In his letter, Dr. Johnston expressed surprise that the College would not have been more proactive in soliciting input on a policy that could have profound impact on both individual doctors and on the profession as a whole. CPSO does not appear to have issued a news release on the consultation process, and pro-life physicians have been taken by surprise.

Dr. Johnston wrote, “The College must have been aware that groups such as Canadian Physicians for Life — which represents doctors from across Canada who respect the dignity of all human life, regardless of age or infirmity — would have concerns with the College’s view that “decisions to restrict medical services offered….that are based on moral or religious belief may contravene the [Ontario Human Rights] Code, and/or constitute professional misconduct.”

“Refusal on conscientious or religious grounds to refer a woman for an abortion could be deemed professional misconduct under this new policy,” Dr. Johnston said.

A similar requirement (that doctors must make abortion referrals regardless of their conscientious beliefs) was put forward in a July 2006 guest editorial in the Canadian Medical Association Journal. It triggered such a firestorm of controversy, that the Journal was compelled to publish a letter from CMA’s Director of Ethics stating that CMA policy did not require physicians to refer for abortions if it would violate their conscientious or religious beliefs.

Dr. Johnston concluded, “There could be serious problems with what the Ontario College is proposing and we need time to study the implications of this policy in detail. If doctors feel coerced into compromising their deepest convictions as a result of this policy, certainly that’s a problem-not only for the integrity of physicians, but also for the welfare of their patients.”

For further comment, please contact:
Will Johnston, MD, President
Canadian Physicians for Life
ph: 613-728-5433
email: info@physiciansforlife.ca


Canadian Physicians for Life is an educational organization representing physicians who hold that reverence for every human life lies at the root of all medical tradition. Through the ages, this tradition has been expressed in the Oath of Hippocrates. It was rephrased in modern times in the Declaration of Geneva (1948), which says in part, “I will maintain the utmost respect for human life, from the time of conception; even under threat, I will not use my medical knowledge contrary to the laws of humanity.”

Freedom of conscience and religion not a defence

Protection of Conscience Project

For Immediate Release

Ontario physicians are being advised that they are expected to give up freedom of conscience if they wish to practise medicine in the province. The expectation is set out in “Physicians and the Ontario Human Rights Code,” a draft policy document from the College of Physicians and Surgeons of Ontario.

The document responds to legislative changes, which, according to the Chair of the Ontario Human Rights Tribunal, will see a twenty-fold increase in hearings before the Tribunal – from 150 to 3,000 cases per year.

According to the College, the Tribunal may take action against a physician who refuses to provide or refer for procedures that he finds morally objectionable. The College strongly suggests that the physician’s freedom of conscience and religion will be ignored because “there is no defence for refusing to provide a service” in such circumstances.

In addition to the possibility of prosecution by the Human Rights Tribunal, the College states that it will consider the Human Rights Code in adjudicating complaints of professional misconduct, even though the College admits that it lacks the expertise and authority in human rights.

The College also plans to force objecting physicians to actively assist patients to obtain morally controversial services. A similar demand – that objectors be forced to refer patients for abortion – generated fierce opposition when it appeared in a 2006 guest editorial in the Canadian Medical Association Journal.

The College posted the draft policy for consultation near the end of June, with a response deadline of 15 August. The Project, noting that there was no news release about the draft and that “the mid-summer timing of the consultation is less than satisfactory,” has asked the College to extend the deadline by 90 days.

“Commentators like Rex Murphy, Mark Steyn and Ezra Levant have condemned Canadian human rights commissions for suppressing freedom of expression,” noted Sean Murphy, Administrator of the Protection of Conscience Project. “Perhaps we should not be surprised to see them now being used to suppress freedom of conscience and religion among medical professionals.”