Court decision on assisted suicide referrals opens door for other challenges

The Catholic Register

Michael Swan

While doctors who lost their right to practise medicine according to their conscience contemplate a legal appeal, a prominent pro-euthanasia organization suspects faith-based hospitals, nursing homes and hospices may be next to face demands to accommodate euthanasia and assisted suicide.

Dying With Dignity, Canada believes an Ontario Divisional Court decision that compels doctors to refer for euthanasia and assisted suicide may become a springboard to court challenges aimed at the conscience rights of institutions which refuse to assist in the death of patients.

“It’s really interesting. I think that the question is going to be debated in the coming days and weeks, if not months, by lawyers,” Dying with Dignity CEO Shanaaz Gokool told The Catholic Register.

In a unanimous Jan. 31 decision, a panel of three judges agreed that the religion rights of doctors under the Charter are violated by a policy which demands a formal referral for assisted suicide and other procedures. But the judges nonetheless ruled against the doctors because, they said, there is a greater public interest in ensuring “equitable access to such medical services as are legally available.” . . . [Full Text]

Divisional Court Accepts Religious and Conscientious Infringement on Ontario Doctors

News Release

Catholic Civil Rights League

TORONTO, ON January 31, 2018 – The Catholic Civil Rights League (CCRL) is gravely disappointed in the ruling released today by the Ontario Divisional Court in the case CMDS et al v. CPSO.

The application was brought by several religious physicians and groups to challenge the mandate of the College of Physicians and Surgeons of Ontario (CPSO), that requires doctors who object to certain procedures on religious or conscientious grounds, such as assisted suicide, to provide nevertheless, an “effective referral” to another physician or caregiver who would perform the service.

The court upheld the policy that requires life affirming physicians to act against their religion and conscience.

It is an alarming development which places Ontario doctors at the risk of professional complaints for refusing to make such referrals.

While finding that the CPSO policies were in breach of the constitutional right to freedom of religion (the court declined to make a ruling on freedom of conscience given its assessment), it found that the policy choice of the CPSO engaged a “reasonable limit” on the exercise of such freedoms.  Speaking on behalf of the three-member panel, Mr. Justice Wilton-Siegel asserted that the CPSO limit on such rights, while not trivial, did not create a substantial infringement, even if it meant forcing a physician to violate one’s conscience, to accommodate his or her practice choices, even to the extent of stepping aside from certain practice areas.

The CCRL has maintained that the CPSO’s insistence on obligating Ontario physicians to perform an “effective referral” for objectionable procedures does nothing to honour the Charter right of freedom of conscience and religion. Rather it is a breach of a physician’s rights and a serious incursion into the professional standing of a physician.

A proper balancing of the rights of physicians with the concept of patient autonomy must not result in the trumping of the rights of physicians in their medical practices.  Such rights extend not only to refusing to perform assisted suicide and euthanasia, but the right not to be obliged to refer to other practitioners who may be willing to provide such services. This clearly constitutes participation in wrong.

According to a recent statement from the John Paul II Academy for Human Life and the Family:

“Seeking to impose on a doctor the duty to perform abortions or euthanasia (or, alternatively, to leave the medical profession or a given hospital), or to impose on him the duty to refer a woman to an abortionist, is gravely sinful and a direct violation of his inalienable human dignity and freedom of conscience.”

“The same also applies to the case where a prolife physician is claimed to be obliged to refer a patient (who requests physician-assisted suicide or euthanasia) to a colleague who would perform such acts.  Not only is the prolife physician not obliged to refer a patient to a colleague who would perform intrinsically wrong acts, he is also absolutely morally forbidden to do so,” they continue.

Speaking to the fallacy of the imposition of personal autonomy on others, “One can hardly imagine a worse perversion of moral truth and natural right than the idea that a person has a right to demand that other persons commit the crime to murder him. Nobody has any right whatsoever to demand from society to assist him to commit a crime against himself, or to oblige others to commit the crime of murdering him.”

“Quite the contrary, the others and the State, in virtue of their true moral autonomy, a moral autonomy subjected to the truth, have the absolute moral duty to reject such a request.”

The CCRL asserted in our legal argument, and relying upon previous authorities, that in a free and democratic society, the state should respect choices made by individuals and, to the greatest extent possible, will avoid subordinating these choices to any one conception of the good life.

Demanding that someone participate in perceived wrongdoing demands the submission of intellect, will and conscience, reducing the person to the status of a thing, to a tool to be used by others, to servitude that cannot be reconciled with principles of equality. It is an assault on human dignity that deprives physicians of their essential humanity.

The court missed an opportunity to require the CPSO to create a policy that would recognize that doctors have different views of what proper accompaniment of vulnerable patients entails.  Many patients not only share the views of the appellants, but also desire to be served by physicians who hold such views. Such doctors care deeply about their patients, and do not wish to be engaged in “referring” patients to their unnatural deaths.

The court instead accepted the arguments of the CPSO and has given its approval to a policy that serves to infringe upon the rights of such physicians.  Such an infringement is by no means insubstantial.

An appeal is required.


About the CCRL

The Catholic Civil Rights League (CCRL)) assists in creating conditions within which Catholic teachings can be better understood, cooperates with other organizations in defending civil rights in Canada, and opposes defamation and discrimination against Catholics on the basis of their beliefs. The CCRL was founded in 1985 as an independent lay organization with a large nationwide membership base. The CCRL is a Canadian non-profit organization entirely supported by the generosity of its members.

For further information: Christian Domenic Elia, PhD CCRL Executive Director 416-466-8244 @CCRLtweets

Ontario doctors fight law forcing them to help kill their patients

The Interim

Five doctors and three doctors’ groups were in an Ontario court June 13-15 arguing a policy from the College of Physicians and Surgeons of Ontario (CPSO) violates their Charter rights to freedom of conscience and religion. The CPSO forces doctors to refer patients for euthanasia and abortion, even when it violates their conscience or religion. Kathleen Wynne’s Liberal government intervened on behalf of the college.

The 2015 CPSO policy requires that doctors who object on religious or conscience grounds to providing certain procedures such as abortion and euthanasia must give patients seeking these practices an effective referral. This means directly handing over a patient to another colleague who will follow through with an abortion or euthanasia request. The doctors argue this implicates them in the immoral practices to which they object. . . . [Full text]

 

Ontario conscience rights case goes to court

Catholic Register

Michael Swan

TORONTO – In historic Osgoode Hall, 17 lawyers along with eight banker boxes of documents were arrayed three benches deep in front of Justice Herman J. Wilton-Siegel, Justice Richard A. Lococo and Justice Wendy W. Matheson before lawyer Albertos Polizogopoulos made his opening arguments on behalf of the Christian Medical and Dental Society of Canada and in favour of the Charter right of doctors to practice medicine according to their conscience.

The CMDS, supported by the Canadian Federation of Catholic Physicians Societies, Canadian Physicians for Life and the Catholic Civil Rights League, is in Ontario Superior Court of Justice June 13-15 challenging the College of Physicians and Surgeons of Ontario over its “effective referral” policy. The policy forces doctors who object to abortion, birth control and assisted suicide to write an “effective referral” for the services to a willing and available doctor. Intervening on the side of the provincial regulatory body governing the practice of medicine is the Attorney General of Ontario.

 

Ontario and Manitoba: A Tale of Euthanasia and Assisted Suicide in Two Provinces

News Release

Catholic Civil Rights League

Toronto, ON May 23, 2017 – How can governments in two provinces come to such opposite conclusions?

As assisted suicide spreads its nefarious presence across the country, provincial governments in two provinces have moved in opposite directions when it comes to recognition of the Charter right of freedom of conscience and religion of healthcare professionals in dealing with the practice.

In Ontario, on May 9, two days prior to the March for Life in Ottawa, Bill 84 passed at third reading 61-26. The new law received royal assent on May 10, and the self-reporting regime of assisted suicide has now been enacted, without any additional provision for clarification of conscience rights of doctors or healthcare workers. In thousands of letters and petitions, and despite the significant majority of in person submissions to the legislative committee studying the bill, the enshrinement of clear conscientious protections was denied.

Last week, a private members bill from Ontario MPP Jeff Yurek, to stipulate such conscience recognition, likewise faced defeat at the hands of the ruling provincial Liberal government.

This same government will send its lawyers next month to oppose a court challenge of the rulings of the College of Physicians and Surgeons of Ontario (CPSO), which enacted a requirement that objecting physicians provide an effective referral to patients seeking death, or other morally repugnant treatment demands.

In Manitoba, Health Minister Kelvin Goertzen introduced Bill 34 on May 16, legislation to provide for assisted suicide in that province, with specific provisions to protect doctors and healthcare professionals from having to participate, or refer, or face disciplinary proceedings for exercising their rights to conscience. “The legislation will protect the rights of those who do not wish to participate in a medically assisted death for conscience, faith or other reasons,” he told the legislative assembly.

The proposed Manitoba bill allows for an individual to be protected from disciplinary or employment repercussions for refusing to participate in assisted suicide requests, in full recognition of the importance of the personal convictions of the healthcare provider. Bill 34 further prohibits a provincial regulatory body from requiring healthcare professionals from participating in assisted suicide.

The Ontario law also suppresses data collection regarding medically assisted suicides, a position opposed by the Privacy Commissioner of Ontario, and the CCRL, in the legislative committee hearings.

Several doctors who presented their positions at the Ontario legislative committee made absolutely clear their opposition to the imposition that assisted suicide would have on their practices, in particular those involved in palliative care. The experience of other jurisdictions has shown that demands for pain management, or palliative care resources, decrease when assisted suicide becomes an available course of action.

We now observe that when it comes to conscience rights, Ontario stands alone in greasing the wheels of assisted suicide requests.

About the CCRL

Catholic Civil Rights League (CCRL) assists in creating conditions within which Catholic teachings can be better understood, cooperates with other organizations in defending civil rights in Canada, and opposes defamation and discrimination against Catholics on the basis of their beliefs. The CCRL was founded in 1985 as an independent lay organization with a large nationwide membership base. The CCRL is a Canadian non-profit organization entirely supported by the generosity of its members.

For further information:

Christian Domenic Elia, PhD CCRL Executive Director
416-466-8244
@CCRLtweets

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)

Amended C-14 includes nod to conscience protection

Catholic Register

Deborah Gyapong

OTTAWA – An amendment to Canada’s proposed assisted suicide legislation fails to go far enough to protect conscience rights and religious freedom, say several opponents.

The Justice Committee voted to amend Bill C-14 to add a clause that says no one should be compelled to participate in euthanasia and assisted suicide. But Conservative MPs, medical and legal representatives want further amendments before Bill C-14 becomes law, expected by June 6.

The committee added a clause May 11 that says: “For greater certainty, nothing in this section compels an individual to provide or assist in providing medical assistance in dying.” It also amended the preamble to stipulate that the bill recognizes the Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedoms guarantees regarding freedom of conscience and religion.

But the bill still fails to provide protection for institutions that refuse to participate in assisted suicide or address the issue of referrals. . .[Full Text]

 

The CCRL strongly opposes the College of Nurses of Ontario’s Physician-Assisted Death: Interim Guidance for Nursing in Ontario

News Release

Catholic Civil Rights League

TORONTO, ON March 24, 2016 – The Catholic Civil Rights League (CCRL) sent the following letter to the College of Nurses of Ontario (CNO) in opposition to Physician-Assisted Death: Interim Guidance for Nursing in Ontario on grounds that its main recommendation seriously violates a nurse’s freedom of conscience and religion.

College of Nurses of Ontario
101 Davenport Rd. Toronto,
ON M5R 3P1

March 24, 2016

RE: College of Nurses of Ontario’s Physician-Assisted Death: Interim Guidance for Nursing in Ontario

The Catholic Civil Rights League (CCRL) strongly opposes the College of Nurses of Ontario’s Physician-Assisted Death: Interim Guidance for Nursing in Ontario on grounds that its main recommendation seriously violates a nurse’s freedom of conscience and religion. Page 3 of the document states:

…some nurses may have conscientious objections to participating in physician-assisted death. Both the Special Joint Committee on Physician-Assisted Dying of the Parliament of Canada and the Provincial-Territorial Expert Advisory Group on Physician-Assisted Dying have recommended that health care professionals who have conscientious objections should refer or transfer a client to another health care provider. If no other caregiver can be arranged, you must provide the immediate care required.

We are hopeful that your suggestion of “immediate care” is in the noble tradition of the nursing profession to preserve life, and to provide medical assistance to save lives.  However, our fear is that your proposed guideline is suggestive that a nurse will be obliged in such circumstances to engage in the new Orwellian concept of “medical aid in dying”, a prospect for which polling suggests a majority of your membership vigorously disagrees.

If the final statement and the directive “you must provide the immediate care required” is intended to mean “medical aid in dying”, then your College has asserted the most jarringly outrageous example of forcing a health care professional to violate his or her conscience that has been proposed by any regulatory body in Canada. It even outweighs the aforementioned recommendations of the Special Joint Committee on Physician-Assisted Dying of the Parliament of Canada and the Provincial-Territorial Expert Advisory Group on Physician-Assisted Dying.

Whereas the CCRL submits that euthanasia and assisted suicide in itself is morally and ethically wrong, compelling another person to be involved in this morally and ethically depraved act is no less wrong.  As interveners in Carter,the CCRL focussed on the impact to health care in general and to the conscience rights of health care workers specifically.  We strongly advocated for a robust understanding and protection of the Charter right of freedom of conscience and religion.

The right to avoid moral complicity in assisted suicide and euthanasia is an essential part of one’s religious and conscientious freedom.

The CCRL appeals to the College of Nurses of Ontario (CNO) to strike from the interim guidance document the necessity to “provide the immediate care required” if “no other caregiver can be arranged.” This compulsion is morally unacceptable.

It is also unacceptable that nurses are treated so poorly, by their own governing college, no less. Instead of limiting nurses’ rights and violating their constitutional right to freedom of conscience and religion, the CNO ought to instead advocate for nurses who conscientiously object to euthanasia and assisted suicide.

As with any regulatory entity, the CNO has no business second-guessing the validity of sincerely held religious beliefs, exercised in the course of one’s professional judgment.

Christian Domenic Elia, PhD
Executive Director
Catholic Civil Rights League (CCRL) celia@ccrl.ca

Philip Horgan
President
Catholic Civil Rights League (CCRL) ccrl@ccrl.ca


About the CCRL

Catholic Civil Rights League (CCRL) (www.ccrl.ca) assists in creating conditions within which Catholic teachings can be better understood, cooperates with other organizations in defending civil rights in Canada, and opposes defamation and discrimination against Catholics on the basis of their beliefs. The CCRL was founded in 1985 as an independent lay organization with a large nationwide membership base. The CCRL is a Canadian non-profit organization entirely supported by the generosity of its members.

For further information:

Christian Domenic Elia, PhD
CCRL Executive Director
416-466-8244 @CCRLtweets

Ottawa’s Catholic palliative care hospital under pressure as it refuses to do euthanasia

LifeSite News

Lianne Laurence

OTTAWA, March 2, 2016 (LifeSiteNews) – Ottawa’s largest palliative care hospital, the Catholic Bruyère Continuing Care Centre, says it will neither euthanize nor assist its patients to commit suicide when those options become legally available June 6.

Bruyère’s vice-president of public affairs and planning, Amy Porteous, told the Ottawa Citizen that the hospital is “waiting for clarification” on the protocol for transferring patients who request euthanasia or assisted suicide after that date.

Bruyère is among 21 Catholic health care institutions administered by the Catholic Health Sponsors of Ontario.

Other institutions under CHSO’s oversight include Toronto’s St. Michael’s Hospital and Providence Centre, the Pembroke Regional Hospital, Penetanguishene’s Waypoint Centre for Mental Health Care, and Sudbury’s St. Joseph’s Continuing Care Centre. . . [Full text]

 

The CCRL Strongly Opposes Parliamentary Committee’s Assisted Suicide/Euthanasia Recommendations

News Release

Catholic Civil Rights League

TORONTO, ON February 25, 2016 – The Catholic Civil Rights League (CCRL) strongly opposes the recommendations of the Report of the Special Joint Committee on Physician-Assisted Dying, titled “Medical Assistance in Dying:  A Patient-Centred Approach.” The CCRL uses the more accurate terms “assisted suicide” and “euthanasia” since there is nothing medicinal whatsoever in the process of killing a patient or intervening so that a patient may commit suicide more easily.

The majority report is problematic as it brings Canada further along the path of unrestricted assisted suicide and euthanasia, a regime which began with the Supreme Court’s unanimous decision in Carter v. Canada and with it, the overturning of the prohibition against assisted suicide and euthanasia from the Criminal Code. In the twenty-two years since the 1993 Supreme Court of Canada decision in Rodriguez, Parliament not only continued to oppose assisted suicide and euthanasia in six separate votes, but rather passed near unanimous resolutions for a national anti-suicide prevention policy, and for a further national strategy to support increased palliative care throughout Canada.

The Joint Committee’s majority recommends the practically unfettered and immediate implementation of death on demand for Canadians. The CCRL made submissions to previous consultation panels on euthanasia in response to the decision in Carter, but the League was not prepared to collaborate in the legislative process of advocating for a liberal bill as now proposed.  The CCRL remains of the view, based on the experience of other jurisdictions, that “safeguards”, even as minimally expressed by the Joint Committee, are illusory.  The League fears for the elderly, the disabled, and the those with mental health afflictions, that they will be the subject of increased pressure to take their own lives, rather than gain access to treatment, or palliative care.  In every other jurisdiction, the scope of assisted suicide and euthanasia widens, and instances of egregious circumstances of premature death prevail.

Of particular concern to the CCRL is recommendation #11:

That the Government of Canada work with the provinces and territories to ensure that all publicly funded health care institutions provide medical assistance in dying.

Catholic health institutions cannot and will not participate in the intrinsically evil act of assisted suicide/euthanasia. The Liberals, as professed guarantors of the Charter, cannot in good conscience merely deny the religious and conscientious rights of such institutions. Is the government’s enthusiasm for such a proposal intended to bring about the demise of the Catholic health system?

Recommendation #10 is wholly unacceptable:

That the Government of Canada work with the provinces and territories and their medical regulatory bodies to establish a process that respects a health care practitioner’s freedom of conscience while at the same time respecting the needs of a patient who seeks medical assistance in dying. At a minimum, the objecting practitioner must provide an effective referral for the patient.

As the CCRL has stated many times, the compulsion to make an “effective referral” is an infringement of the Charter right of freedom of conscience and religion.  Compelling an objecting physician to provide an effective referral to another physician, health-care provider, or third party agency in order to carry out assisted death or euthanasia, involves that physician in the objectionable procedure.  The Parliamentary Committee has ignored numerous presentations and submissions opposing any compulsion to force a physician to violate his or her own conscience by being a participant in the very act, the very procedure to which he or she objects in the first place.

We urge members of the media and others who care for the future of Canada to have reference to the dissenting report of four Conservative MPs who have taken issue with the majority recommendations of the Joint Committee.

Canada is entering fully into the culture of death.

The CCRL asks all of our supporters to join us in rejecting this report and we plead with all Canadians, and indeed all Catholics to wake up and join us in this fight, spiritually through prayer, and politically by using our collective voice. Let us announce that we will not accept this.

About the CCRL
Catholic Civil Rights League (CCRL) (www.ccrl.ca) assists in creating conditions within which Catholic teachings can be better understood, cooperates with other organizations in defending civil rights in Canada, and opposes defamation and discrimination against Catholics on the basis of their beliefs. The CCRL was founded in 1985 as an independent lay organization with a large nationwide membership base. The CCRL is a Canadian non-profit organization entirely supported by the generosity of its members.

 For further information:
Christian Domenic Elia, PhD
CCRL Executive Director
416-466-8244
@CCRLtweets