Canadian court rules that state can compel participation in homicide and suicide

News Release

For immediate release

Protection of Conscience Project

Three judges of the Ontario Superior Court of Justice Divisional Court have unanimously ruled that, notwithstanding religious convictions to the contrary, Ontario  physicians can be forced to help patients access any and all services and procedures, including euthanasia and assisted suicide.

“In the end,” observed Project Administrator Sean Murphy,  “the ruling effectively gives the state the power to compel citizens to be parties to homicide and suicide, even if they believe it is wrong to kill people or help them kill themselves.”

The Protection of Conscience Project jointly intervened in the case with the Catholic Civil Rights League and Faith and Freedom Alliance on the issue of freedom of conscience.  The court acknowledged the submission, but explicitly limited its ruling to the exercise of freedom of religion.  It did not address freedom of conscience.

The court approved the reasoning of the College of Physicians and Surgeons of Ontario, the state medical regulator.  The College argued that “physicians must be prepared to take positive steps to facilitate patient access” to euthanasia and assisted suicide, and that there is “no qualitative difference” between euthanasia and “other health services.”

With respect to options of objecting physicians, the court observed that they are free to change their field of practice in order to avoid moral conflicts.  The judges added that those who fail to do so are to blame for any psychological distress they might experience if compelled to violate their convictions.  It appears that they were unconcerned that this might further reduce the number of family and palliative care physicians, noting that there was “no evidence” that coercive policies would adversely affect physicians “in any meaningful numbers.”

Dr. Shimon Glick, advisor to the Project and Professor Emeritus of the Faculty of Health Sciences at Ben Gurion University of the Negev in Israel, described the ruling as “sad.”  Commenting on the decision, Project Advisor Professor Roger Trigg of Oxford said, “once the perceived interests of the State override the moral conscience of individuals  – and indeed of professionals- particularly in matters of life and death, then we are treading a slippery slope to totalitarianism.”

“Even the first steps- that may not seem important to some,” he warned, “are taking us in that direction.”

Professor Trigg’s warning was echoed by Professor Abdulaziz Sachedina, a leading Islamic scholar and philosopher who also serves on the Project Advisory Board.  Professor Sachedina asked, “Are we  going to submit to “totalitarian ethics” reflected in such court decisions, making suicide a tempting option without any regard to conscientious objection?”

The decision concluded legal proceedings launched jointly by five Ontario physicians, the Christian Medical and Dental Society of Canada, Canadian Physicians for Life, and the Canadian Federation of Catholic Physicians’ Societies.  They are considering the possibility of appeal.

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


The Protection of Conscience Project is a non-profit, non-denominational initiative that advocates for freedom of conscience in health care. The Project does not take a position on the morality or acceptability of morally contested procedures. Since 1999, the Project has been supporting health care workers who want to provide the best care  for their patients without violating their own personal and professional integrity. 

 

 

Ontario court ruling “a significant loss for the entire health care system”

News Release

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE

CMDS, CFCPS, CPFL

Toronto, Ontario – From June 13-15, 2017, the legal application of three physicians’ organizations – the Christian Medical and Dental Society of Canada (“CMDS Canada”), the Canadian Federation of Catholic Physicians’ Societies (“CFCPS”) and the Canadian Physicians for Life – and five physicians – was heard in the Ontario Divisional Court. The respondent in the case is the College of Physicians and Surgeons of Ontario (CPSO).

An application was filed asking the Court to declare that portions of the CPSO’s Professional Obligations and Human Rights policy violate the Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedoms. An application for judicial review was simultaneously filed asking the Court to declare the same of the CPSO’s Medical Assistance in Dying policy.

Today, January 31, 2018, the Court declared that these CPSO policies violate freedom of religion by requiring physicians and surgeons to make referrals when their consciences will not allow them to perform a procedure or treatment. The Court stated, (at para. 87): “I am of the opinion that the Policies infringe the rights of religious freedom of the Individual Applicants as guaranteed under the Charter …”

However, the Court found that the violations were justified because of the importance of providing access to these services.

“The Court held that other jurisdictions had chosen less restrictive means of ensuring access. The Court also held that there was no evidence that conscientious objection ever results in a failure of access. The Court also held that the implications for physicians were serious and more than trivial or insubstantial. We are left wondering why an effective referral is necessary,” Larry Worthen, Executive Director of the Christian Medical and Dental Society of Canada said.

“Canada represents itself on the world stage as being a cultural mosaic. This is evidence that we are losing sight of that reality. To say we respect all cultures and beliefs, we need to respect their strongly held moral convictions. We heard from our members and other doctors with conscientious objections over and over again that they felt referral made them complicit and that they wouldn’t be able to live with themselves or stay in the profession if effective referral is still required. We are currently reviewing our options regarding an appeal.”

“This is a disappointing decision and puts our doctors – doctors who entered the field of medicine to provide quality, compassionate, and patient-centered care – in an impossible position,” states Dr. Ryan Wilson, President of Canadian Physicians for Life. “They don’t believe ending a patient’s life is medicine, and they don’t believe they can offer hope and healing in one room while assisting in killing a patient in another. Ultimately it is patient care that suffers, as our doctors will retire early, relocate, or change fields. For many, their religious and conscience rights are being violated and they won’t be able to practice medicine in Ontario. This is a significant loss for the entire health care system in the province and will have a direct impact on patient care.”

The CFCPS is very disappointed with this decision from this Ontario Court that denies conscience rights to many Ontario physicians. “The Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedoms guarantees freedom of religion for all Canadians,” stated Dr. Jim Lane, President of the CFCPS. “This decision forces many Ontario doctors to be unable to care for their patients. This decision also raises alarm bells to all health care workers and Ontario residents that their freedom of religion and conscience could also be jeopardized.”

CMDS Canada is a national association of Christian doctors and dentists who strive to integrate their Christian faith with medical or dental practice. CMDS Canada represents approximately 1600 medical doctors, dentists and medical and dental students, over 500 of which are located in Ontario.

The CFCPS is a national association of Catholic physicians’ guilds, associations and societies from eleven cities across Canada, four of which are in Ontario.

The physicians represented by CMDS Canada and CFCPS hold sincere religious and moral beliefs that form the basis of their moral or religious objection to physician-assisted death.

The Canadian Physicians for Life (“CPL”) is a national association of pro-life physicians, retired physicians, medical residents and students. CPL’s members are dedicated to building a culture of care, compassion and life. CPL was founded in 1975 and is a non-religious charitable organization. CPL’s members believe that every human life, regardless of age or infirmity, is valuable and worth protecting.

For more information and media requests contact:

Larry Worthen, Executive Director
Christian Medical and Dental Society of Canada
902-880-2495 (cell)
office@cmdscanada.org

Join the Call for Conscience Campaign February 6 – March 31, 2017

Coalition for HealthCARE and Conscience

Take Action – Join the Call for Conscience Campaign

February 6  to March 31, 2017

We need your help now to change policies in many provinces, most urgently in Ontario, where Bill 84 (Medical Assistance in Dying Statute Law Amendment Act) was introduced on December 7, 2016.

Hear from Our Doctors

Sign up to join the Call for Conscience today!

You shouldn’t lose your job because of your morals. Neither should your doctor.


We want doctors to be able to serve their patients instead of being pushed out of the practice of medicine.

But we need your help. Governments and medical associations will only agree if there is public support.

Visit MoralConvictions.ca to learn more and make sure your voice is heard.

Doctors’ Group urges Canadian Medical Association to defend conscience rights on assisted death

News Release

Christian Medical and Dental Society of Canada

HALIFAX, Aug. 24, 2015 /CNW/ – Larry Worthen, Executive Director of the Christian Medical and Dental Society of Canada (CMDS), urged the Canadian Medical Association (CMA), today, to support their members’ freedom of conscience when they meet on Tuesday, August 25th, to consider the CMA’s position on assisted death and conscience rights.

Said Larry Worthen, “Many physicians have moral convictions that will not allow them to participate in medical aid in dying. There should be no discrimination against a physician for her refusal to participate in medical aid in dying for moral or conscience reasons. That is why the Christian Medical and Dental Society of Canada urges the Canadian Medical Association to adopt the third option being presented to them by CMA staff: that physicians have a ‘duty to provide complete information on all options and advise on how to access a separate, central information, counselling and referral service.'”

The Canadian Medical Association will be discussing a policy framework called “Principled Based Approach to Assisted Dying in Canada” at their general council meeting in Halifax on August 25th. Section 5.2 of this document deals with physician conscience protection and assisted death. CMA staff will present four options for dealing with conscientious objection, and delegates will be polled on which option should be included in official CMA policy.

All options deal with the situation in which a physician is not able, for reasons of conscience, to participate in physician-assisted death. The four options are:

  1. Duty to refer directly to a non-objecting physician;
  2. Duty to refer to an independent third party;
  3. Duty to provide complete information on all options and advise on how to access a separate, central information, counselling, and referral service; or
  4. Patient self-referral to a separate central information, counseling, and referral service.

Options ‘1’ and ‘2’ require the objecting physician to refer. Many physicians will have moral convictions that assisted death is never in the best interests of the patient, while others may object to assisted death because of the particular circumstances of the patient. A referral is essentially a recommendation for the procedure, and facilitates its delivery. A requirement to refer means that physicians will be forced to act against their consciences.

Option ‘4’ allows the patient to directly access assisted death, but does not necessarily provide an opportunity for counseling by a physician who has a longer term relationship with the patient.

“Option ‘3’ allows the discussion of all options to occur with the patient and the physician who knows them. If, after considering all of the options, the patient still wants assisted death, the patient may access that directly. This option ensures that all reasonable alternatives are considered. It respects the autonomy of the patient to access all legal services while at the same time protecting physicians’ conscience rights,” added Mr. Worthen.

Option ‘3’ is a summary of a proposal submitted to the CMA by three organizations: the Christian Medical and Dental Society, the Canadian Federation of Catholic Physician Societies, and Canadian Physicians for Life. Taken together, they represent more than 3000 Canadian physicians.

CMDS (Christian Medical and Dental Society) represents some 1600 physicians and dentists across Canada.

See the complete CMDS-CFCPS-CPFL- proposal to the CMA 

 

Sask MDs, doctors’ groups ask for a hearing by College of Physicians and Surgeons

News Release

Christian Medical and Dental Society of Canada

SASKATOON, June 17, 2015 /CNW/ – Larry Worthen, Executive Director of the Christian Medical and Dental Society of Canada (CMDS), urged the College of Physicians and Surgeons of Saskatchewan (CPSS), today, to support freedom of conscience when they meet on Friday, June 19th, to consider a policy on conscientious objection. CMDS and other doctors’ groups are asking for a meeting with the College’s drafting committee to express their concerns.

Said Larry Worthen, “To ask physicians to act against deeply held moral convictions would be a clear infringement on physicians’ rights to the Section 2 fundamental freedoms of conscience and religion guaranteed by the Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedoms. The College’s Associate Registrar Brian Salte has ties to the Conscience Research Project led by one of Canada’s leading proponents of abortion, assisted suicide and euthanasia, and Mr. Salte has attended briefings of that group. We ask that the College would give us equal time to present our side of the argument and hear concerns about how this policy will affect patient care in Saskatchewan.”

Previous CPSS policy drafts required that physicians refer patients for procedures even when performing such procedures went against the moral convictions of the physician. Under the drafts, physicians would even be forced to actually perform procedures even though to do so would go against strongly held moral and religious convictions. Physicians who refused to comply would be vulnerable to sanctions up to and including losing their licences.

“No one’s interests are served by effectively disqualifying certain Saskatchewan physicians from the practice of medicine,” said Worthen.

Roman Catholic and evangelical Protestant physicians hold grave concerns about the negative effects when they are forced to act against their consciences.

“Going against one’s conscience can cause moral distress which has been shown to affect patient care adversely. We need to have physicians who are free to bring their whole selves to their patients, including their compassion and their ethics,” said Mary Deutscher, member of the Roman Catholic Diocese of Saskatoon Justice and Peace Commission. “For Catholic physicians, participation in a formal referral makes them an accomplice in the procedure. This position is supported by many evangelical Protestant experts and other groups as well.”

This is also reflected in the positions of CMDS, Canadian Physicians for Life (CPL) and the Canadian Federation of Catholic Physicians’ Societies (CFCPS).

“Should the College choose to adopt this policy, it would assume the role of judge and jury deciding who could or could not exercise their constitutionally protected rights,” said Faye Sonier, CPL’s General Legal Counsel. “Physicians who cannot perform certain procedures due to their beliefs would become a class of citizens who fall outside the protection of the Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedoms.”

“Physicians who hold conscientious objections do so with profound respect for both the well-being and the autonomy of their patients. Their conscientious objections also stem from a deep commitment to the Hippocratic Oath,” said Dr. Thomas Bouchard, M.D., of the CFCPS. “In debates about conscience rights, the debate is often framed as a competition between the rights of a patient to access services versus the conscience of a physician. But physicians in these circumstances do not care solely about their conscience rights. These physicians also care deeply about the good of their patients.”

Self-referral is already a commonly exercised option among patients, including in respect of abortion services, across most of Saskatchewan. Self-referral allows the doctor to avoid being involved in facilitating the provision of the service, and the patient gets prompt access to the service.

A public opinion survey conducted May 20th-27th by Abingdon Research indicated that when a patient and doctor have different views on best treatment because of the doctor’s moral convictions, 47.5% of the Saskatchewan public felt that a patient could seek further advice or help from a different doctor without a formal referral, compared with 44.1% who felt the doctor should provide a formal referral. More than 53% of Saskatchewan residents felt that “nothing should happen to the doctor” who was unwilling to provide a treatment or a referral for reasons of moral conviction.

“Doctors represented by our groups are willing to discuss all procedures with their patients in a caring and objective way. We simply ask that when the patient makes a decision that the doctor cannot support for moral reasons that the patient access another service provider directly,” added Dr. Sheila Harding, M.D., a Saskatoon haematologist. “I have heard of many cases where doctor and patient agree to disagree and the patient returns to the physician’s practice after the procedure. If anything, the physician-patient relationship was enhanced.”

CMDS (Christian Medical and Dental Society) represents some 1600 physicians and dentists across Canada (cmdscanada.org). The Canadian Federation of Catholic Physicians’ Societies (canadiancatholicphysicians.com) represents groups from across Canada. Canadian Physicians for Life (physiciansforlife.ca is the national association of pro-life physicians and provides resources and educational opportunities to thousands of physicians and medical students each year.

SOURCE Christian Medical and Dental Society of Canada

For further information: Larry Worthen at 902-880-2495. Larry is available for interviews in Saskatoon after 10:00 a.m., Wednesday, June 17th, until Noon, Saturday, June 20th.

Court challenge raises issue of “reasonable apprehension of bias”

Sean Murphy*

The College of Physicians and Surgeons of Ontario is facing a court challenge by the Christian Medical and Dental Society and the Canadian Federation of Catholic Physicians’ Societies.  They have filed an application in the Ontario Superior Court of Justice asking for an injunction against enforcement of the College’s controversial new policy, Professional Obligations and Human Rights.  According to the application the College acknowledged that it had received 15,977 submissions during the second consultation concerning the policy, which ended on 20 February, 2015.  The great majority of submissions opposed the policy.

While the consultation ended on 20 February, a working group wrote the final version of the policy by 11 February, at least nine days before the consultation closed.  This is one of the factors that gives rise to concern about what the CMDS application calls either “actual bias” or “a reasonable apprehension of bias” on the part of the working group.

On this point, the statistics provided by the College are of interest.

analysisAccording to the briefing note supplied to the College Council, by 11 February, 2015 the College had received 3,105 submissions.  This means that 12,872 submissions were received from 12 to 20 February inclusive.  In other words, over 80% of the submissions in the second consultation were received after the final version of the policy was written.

Moreover, allowing sufficient time to receive feedback is only the beginning.  Having received them, one would expect that a working group seriously interested in feedback would allow sufficient time to review and analyse the submissions.

During the 64 days of consultation ending 11 February, the College received an average of almost 50 submissions per day.  There were 43 working days during that period.  Assuming someone spent eight full hours every working day reading the submissions, it would have taken one person about seven minutes to review each one.

analysisHowever, during the nine days of consultation ending 20 February, the College received an average of 60 submissions every hour.  With 16 working days available from 12 February to 5 March inclusive, the day before the Council meeting, one person reading eight hours a day would have had no more than 36 seconds to review each submission.

Presumably this will be one of the issues to which the attention of the court will be directed if the case goes to trial.

Ontario physicians seek court protection from CPSO policy

For immediate release

Christian Medical and Dental Society of Canada

TORONTO – Dr. Diane Haak, President of the Christian Medical and Dental Society (CMDS), Woodstock emergency room physician Dr. Michelle Korvemaker, and CMDS executive director Larry Worthen announced, today, that they have filed documents asking the Court to declare that a new College of Physicians and Surgeons (CPSO) policy infringes upon Ontario doctors’ freedom of conscience.

“My conscience and religious beliefs do not allow me to engage in procedures to which I have a moral, ethical or religious objection. I, and all physicians in Ontario, have the right to practice medicine according to my conscience and free from state compulsion,” said Dr. Korvemaker.

Dr. Haak added, “This policy may force physicians who do not feel they can refer or perform procedures that go against their conscience to leave the practice of medicine.”

CMDS filed an application for declaratory relief asking the court to declare that portions of the CPSO’s March 6, 2015, policy breach sections of the Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedoms.

Said Larry Worthen, ”We firmly believe that it is possible to ensure access to  controversial procedures and pharmaceuticals in Ontario without trampling upon the constitutional rights of physicians”

The CPSO policy violates freedoms of conscience and religion by requiring physicians and surgeons to make formal referrals when their consciences don’t permit their performing a procedure or treatment. The policy also violates Charter freedoms by requiring them to perform procedures when certain circumstances arise.

 CMDS Canada represents some 1600 physicians and dentists across Canada (http://www.cmdscanada.org). The Canadian Federation of Catholic Physician’s Societies is also supporting the application.

-30-

For more information, please contact:      Larry Worthen  902-880-2495

Groups make effort to protect physicians’ conscience rights

 The Catholic Register

Deborah Gyapong, Canadian Catholic News

OTTAWA – Doctors’ conscience rights are threatened by a proposed policy of the College of Physicians and Surgeons of Ontario (CPSO) that may force them to refer patients for morally problematic procedures, warn some physicians’ organizations.

The CPSO has given a Feb. 20 deadline for input into the policy that would force physicians to refer patients for procedures such as abortion and assisted suicide (the Supreme Court on Feb. 6 struck down prohibitions against assisted suicide) against their consciences. The College of Physicians and Surgeons of Saskatchewan is also considering similar changes to its policy, with a deadline of March 6 for public input.

The Christian Medical and Dental Society (CMDS) Canada has been working closely with the Canadian Federation of Catholic Physicians’ Societies in rallying opposition to the proposed changes.

“The proposed policy demands that doctors refer for, and in some cases actually perform, procedures like birth control, abortion and even euthanasia,” said CMDS executive director Larry Worthen. “Physicians would have to perform these procedures when the regulator considers them to be ‘urgent or otherwise necessary to prevent imminent harm, suffering and/or deterioration.’  . . . [Full Text]