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

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]

 

Webcast on Ontario Physicians’ Conscience Rights

On February 8 the Catholic Civil Rights League, the Toronto Catholic Doctors’ Guild, and Canadian Catholic Bioethics Institute held a seminar/webinar to help you frame your response to the College of Physicians and Surgeons of Ontario’s policy document on professional obligations and human rights.

Submission to the College of Physicians and Surgeons of Ontario

Re: Professional Obligations and Human Rights

Catholic Civil Rights League

The Catholic Civil Rights League (CCRL) is pleased to provide this submission to the College of Physicians and Surgeons of Ontario (CPSO) regarding the revised and approved draft policy Professional Obligations and Human Rights. We strongly advocate for a robust understanding and protection of the Charter right of freedom of conscience and religion for all Canadians, and indeed physicians in the daily routine of their care to patients and in the overall forming of their individual medical practices. The CCRL therefore rejects the proposed mandate for an “effective referral” as it is a breach of a physician’s rights and a serious incursion into the professional standing of a physician.

We previously provided a submission in August of 2014, when external consultation was sought regarding proposed changes to Physicians and the Ontario Human Rights Code. In 2008, we raised similar concerns in that consultative process. We are as adamant with our concerns today as we were seven years ago. Doctors and other health care professionals, indeed all Canadians, enjoy the Charter right of freedom of conscience and religion. 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 morally objectionable services, but the right not to be obliged to refer to other practitioners who may be willing to provide such services. This clearly would constitute participation in wrong. The proposed mandate for an “effective referral” must be rejected.
Lines 156-159 are wholly unacceptable to the CCRL:

Where physicians are unwilling to provide certain elements of care due to their moral or religious beliefs, an effective referral to another health care provider must be provided to the patient. An effective referral means a referral made in good faith, to a non-objecting, available, and accessible physician or other health-care provider.

The CCRL appeals to the Executive Committee and Council to strike from this policy the necessity to “provide an effective referral”. This is an unacceptable inclusion, an unnecessary and unwanted change from the 2008 policy. Compelling a physician to provide an effective referral to another physician or health-care provider in order to carry out a procedure to which he or she objects on the grounds of conscience or religion also compels the 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.

The current CPSO policy also states that:

The balancing of rights must be done in context. In relation to freedom of religion specifically, courts will consider how directly the act in question interferes with a core religious belief. Courts will seek to determine whether the act interferes with the religious belief in a ‘manner that is more than trivial or insubstantial.’ The less direct the impact on a religious belief, the less likely courts are to find that freedom of religion is infringed.

The CCRL submits that issues pertaining to the sanctity of life from conception until natural death is a core Catholic belief. There is also a growing body of medical research which has questioned in recent years the merits of artificial birth control, and the further risks to women from abortion. A Catholic physician is entitled in conscience to avoid providing artificial contraception or abortifacients, or procuring an abortion unless the mother’s life is in imminent threat. In the event that Canada adopts a regime of physician assisted suicide, the threat to conscientious objection is that much greater. We assure the CPSO that under no circumstances would any of the aforementioned practices be considered ‘trivial or insubstantial’.

The CCRL further submits that there are numerous procedures which may violate good medicine, or violate the consciences of many other physicians belonging to other religions or those holding sincere beliefs, religious or otherwise. The point is that despite our mandate to educate the public and defend and promote the Catholic perspective, we at the CCRL nonetheless submit that a physician must have the right to carry out their duties in line with their consciences, period.

Neither the College nor the courts determine what comprises religious belief and to what extent acts may or may not interfere. Once the sincerity of religious belief is understood, neither the College or courts should interfere in a delineation of what the particular faith may prescribe. It is far more logical to simply respect physicians’ consciences as has been the case in Ontario with the policy in place since 2008. The compulsion to effectively refer violates this right of freedom of conscience and religion and there is no reason to institute the need to provide an effective referral, whether it is on the grounds of access to care, or on any other grounds.

Regarding the ‘balancing of rights’ referred to by the CPSO, the CCRL believes that the current status quo in Ontario maintains this balance between the Charter rights of conscience and religion with the concept of patient autonomy. Using the previous listed examples of practices that would be morally objectionable to a serious Catholic physician, consider that the number of said physicians is minute in comparison to those who would have no objection whatsoever. If a lack of balance exists, it is surely found in the vast difference between physicians who choose to conscientiously dissent versus those who do not. This difference is so great that it cannot be objectively stated that a member of the public in Ontario would have their rights to autonomy violated by any physician following the 2008 CPSO policy.

With this submission, we at the CCRL call upon the CPSO’s Executive Committee and Council to reject the mandate for “effective referrals”. The medical profession, as with any grouping of individuals is not truly free to live and free to grow if its members are not able to govern their actions in accordance with their individual consciences, whether informed by moral and religious beliefs or otherwise.

Canada is a pluralist society, and an authentic pluralism recognizes that there will be differences in the public sphere, and that we live with such differences in a civil society. The proposed CPSO policy engages in a trumping exercise, mandating that a patient’s autonomy trumps recognized conscientious and religious rights of physicians. The demand for acceptance of a regime of “effective referral” of morally objectionable practices would lead to patients losing trust in the professional status of doctors. There is also the likelihood of numerous physicians opposing the new proposed policy and their refusal to comply, generating unwarranted complaints and possible exits from the jurisdiction. The extent of potential disruption is unknown, but greater instability would certainly follow in the provision of medical services. Ontario can ill afford such a tearing of the social fabric of our society. The better alternative is to accept that we are respectful of differences, especially when they concern aspects of one’s moral or religious beliefs, in no way trivial, but rather as the basis of a well-developed civil society.

Catholics doctors who reject abortion told to get out of family medicine

The Catholic Register

Michael Swan

Catholic doctors who won’t perform abortions or provide abortion referrals should leave family medicine, says an official of the College of Physicians and Surgeons of Ontario.

“It may well be that you would have to think about whether you can practice family medicine as it is defined in Canada and in most of the Western countries,” said Dr. Marc Gabel, chair of the college’s policy working group reviewing “Professional Obligations and Human Rights.”

The Ontario doctor’s organization released a draft policy Dec. 11 that would require all doctors to provide referrals for abortions, morning-after pills and contraception. The revised policy is in response to evolving obligations under the Ontario Human Rights Code, Gabel said.

There have been no Ontario Human Rights Tribunal decisions against doctors for failing to refer for abortion or contraception.

Gabel said there’s plenty of room for conscientious Catholics in various medical specialties, but a moral objection to abortion and contraception will put family doctors on the wrong side of human rights legislation and current professional practice. . . [Full text]

 

Ontario physicians college draft policy would trample conscience rights

Canadian Catholic News

Deborah Gyapong

OTTAWA – The College of Physicians and Surgeons of Ontario’s draft human rights policy would trample religious freedom and freedom of conscience, say groups defending those rights.

“Prominent academics and activists want to force objecting physicians to provide or refer for abortion and contraception,” said a news release from the Protection of Conscience Project.

“They and others have led increasingly strident campaigns to suppress freedom of conscience among physicians to achieve that goal. The College’s draft policy clearly reflects their influence.”

While the draft policy does not require doctors to perform treatments that violate their consciences or religious beliefs, it does require them to refer patients to doctors who will. . . [Full Text]