For Immediate Release
Protection of Conscience Project
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.”