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

Coalition for HealthCARE and Conscience

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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.

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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 ( The Canadian Federation of Catholic Physicians’ Societies ( represents groups from across Canada. Canadian Physicians for Life ( 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.

submissionsAccording 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 ( The Canadian Federation of Catholic Physician’s Societies is also supporting the application.


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]


Doctors’ conscience rights under attack in birth control debate

One physician threatens to give up his practice rather than kill patients

BC Catholic

Deborah Gyapong

Doctors who refuse to prescribe birth control pills have become the focus of a debate over physicians’ rights to freedom of conscience and religion when practising medicine.

An Alberta doctor has been in the media spotlight recently for posting a notice at the clinic where she works she will not prescribe the pill and now faces a human rights complaint. Earlier this year, three Ottawa doctors came under fire for similar reasons. The Ontario College of Physicians and Surgeons (CPSO) is doing a public consultation on its guidelines that could be revamped to restrict doctors’ rights to abstain from legal medical practices on religious or conscientious grounds.

For Dr. Howie Bright, past president of the Canadian Federation of Catholic Physicians’ Societies (CFCPS), the attack on birth control is a “fairly discrete target because it sounds weird that a modern doctor” would not prescribe contraception and is likely to “generate reaction.” [Full text]