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Coalition for HealthCARE and Conscience

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February 6  to March 31, 2017

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Ontario physicians oppose referrals for assisted suicide, seek judicial review of CPSO requirement

News Release

Coalition for HealthCARE and Conscience

TORONTO, ONT. (June 20, 2016) – The Coalition for HealthCARE and Conscience, representing more than 5,000 physicians and 100 healthcare facilities across Canada, is heartened that federal legislation for assisted suicide specifically states that no one should be compelled to participate in euthanasia.

However, the coalition is deeply troubled that this directive in Bill C-14 is already being ignored and that doctors who oppose assisted suicide over conscience concerns will be required to help take the lives of patients — at least in Ontario.

The College of Physicians and Surgeons of Ontario (CSPO) demands that doctors who conscientiously object to assisted suicide refer patients seeking to end their lives to other physicians who will provide the procedure.

No other foreign jurisdiction that has legalized assisted suicide requires doctors to perform or refer for this procedure. Other provinces have already implemented guidelines to protect doctors who object to providing or referring for assisted suicide.

“The current approach of the CPSO demands that doctors set aside their morals and go against their conscience to directly refer for assisted suicide,” said Larry Worthen, Coalition member and Executive Director of the Christian Medical and Dental Society of Canada. “In our view, effective referral and participating in assisted suicide are morally and ethically the same thing.”

To ensure that conscience rights are respected for Ontario doctors, three physician groups in the Coalition are seeking an expedited judicial review asking the court to determine whether the approach by the CPSO is unconstitutional.

Members of the Coalition fully support the right people clearly have to refuse or discontinue the use of life-sustaining treatment and to allow death to occur.  However, they also hold strong moral convictions that it is never justified for a physician to help take a patient’s life, under any circumstances.

“By requiring effective referral, the CPSO is forcing people of conscience and faith to act against their moral convictions. This threatens the very core of why they became physicians, which is to help to heal people. This is discrimination. It is unnecessary,” Worthen said.

The Coalition is calling on the College to make accommodations that would allow people who have conscientious objection to assisted suicide to continue to practice medicine.

Protecting conscience rights of health practitioners would require only minor accommodations, such as allowing patients direct access to an assessment or allowing complete transfer of care to another physician.

“There are ways to respect patients’ wishes while protecting conscience rights,” Worthen said. “Not to do so is discrimination against people for their morals and convictions, which are protected in the Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedoms.”

A strong majority of Canadians are on side with the coalition’s beliefs on conscience protection. A recent Nanos Research poll found that 75% of Canadians agreed that doctors “should be able to opt out of offering assisted dying,” compared with 21% who disagreed.

The coalition continues to urge Canadians with concerns about assisted suicide legislation to visit CanadiansforConscience.ca where they can communicate directly with their elected members of provincial or federal parliament.

The coalition represents several like-minded organizations committed to protecting conscience rights for health practitioners and institutions. Members of the coalition include the Catholic Archdiocese of Toronto, the Christian Medical and Dental Society of Canada, the Catholic Organization for Life and Family, the Canadian Federation of Catholic Physicians’ Societies, the Canadian Catholic Bioethics Institute, Canadian Physicians for Life, Evangelical Fellowship of Canada, Archdiocese of Vancouver, and the Catholic Health Alliance of Canada.

 About The Coalition for HealthCARE and Conscience:

The Coalition for HealthCARE and Conscience represents a group of like-minded organizations, including representing more than 110 healthcare facilities (with almost 18,000 care beds and 60,000 staff) and more than 5,000 physicians across Canada, that are committed to protecting conscience rights for faith-based health practitioners and facilities. We were brought together by a common mission to respect the sanctity of human life, to protect the vulnerable and to promote the ability of individuals and institutions to provide health care without having to compromise their moral convictions.

Conscience protection still at risk with assisted death legislation

News Release
For Immediate Distribution

Coalition for HealthCARE and Conscience

OTTAWA, ONT. (April 14, 2016) – The Coalition for HealthCARE and Conscience recognizes that federal legislation tabled today on physician-assisted death has rejected disturbing recommendations from the parliamentary joint committee regarding access to assisted suicide.

However, the coalition, which represents more than 100 healthcare facilities (with almost 18,000 care beds and 60,000 staff) and more than 5,000 physicians across Canada, is concerned that the bill doesn’t protect the conscience rights of health care workers or facilities that morally object to performing or referring for what is being referred to as “medically assisted death.”

By making no reference to conscience rights in the legislation, it appears that the federal government intends to leave it up to individual provincial and territorial governments to determine whether to protect health care workers and institutions and how to do so.

“No other foreign jurisdiction in the world that has legalized euthanasia/assisted suicide forces health care workers, hospitals, nursing homes or hospices to act against their conscience or mission and values,” says Larry Worthen, Coalition member and Executive Director of the Christian Medical and Dental Society of Canada. “These conscience rights must be preserved. As we review this legislation, we will continue to advocate for the vulnerable and for conscience protection, which is provided in the Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedoms.”

A strong majority of Canadians are on side with the coalition’s beliefs on conscience protection. A recent Nanos Research poll found that 75% of Canadians agreed that doctors “should be able to opt out of offering assisted dying,” compared with 21% who disagreed.

Members of the coalition fully support the right people clearly have to accept, to refuse and/ or discontinue the use of life-sustaining treatment and to allow death to occur.  They also hold strong moral convictions that it is never justified for a physician to help take a patient’s life, under any circumstances.

“Our health care workers journey with those who are sick and suffering each day. We will continue to do this in a caring and compassionate way,” Worthen says. “We help patients at the end of life, what we object to is ending their life.”

The coalition contends Canada can significantly reduce the number of people who see death as the only possible option to end their suffering by improving medical and social services.

“Our worth as a society is measured by the support we give to the vulnerable,” said says Worthen. “We need increased access to palliative care, chronic disease and mental health services to help individuals who are suffering across the country.”

The coalition continues to urge Canadians with concerns about assisted suicide legislation to visit CanadiansforConscience.ca where they can communicate directly with their elected members of provincial or federal parliament.

The coalition represents several like-minded organizations committed to protecting conscience rights for health practitioners and institutions. Members of the coalition include the Catholic Archdiocese of Toronto, the Christian Medical and Dental Society of Canada, the Catholic Organization for Life and Family, the Canadian Federation of Catholic Physicians’ Societies, the Canadian Catholic Bioethics Institute, Canadian Physicians for Life and the Catholic Health Alliance of Canada.

For more information, please contact:
Jeff Blay
Media Relations, Coalition for HealthCARE and Conscience
jblay@enterprisecanada.com
289-241-5114


About The Coalition for HealthCARE and Conscience:

The Coalition for HealthCARE and Conscience represents a group of like-minded organizations, including representing more than 110 healthcare facilities (with almost 18,000 care beds and 60,000 staff) and more than 5,000 physicians across Canada , that are committed to protecting conscience rights for faith-based health practitioners and facilities. We were brought together by a common mission to respect the sanctity of human life, to protect the vulnerable and to promote the ability of individuals and institutions to provide health care without having to compromise their moral convictions.

To learn more, visit CanadiansforConscience.ca

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]

 

Ontario policy forcing doctors to have role in abortion will have ‘devastating’ consequences: bishops’ group

Liane Laurence

OTTAWA, February 5, 2015 (LifeSiteNews.com) — A national Catholic organization sponsored by Canada’s bishops has asked Ontario’s College of Physicians and Surgeons to reject a proposed policy that threatens to force doctors into providing abortions and contraceptives in some circumstances.

The draft policy, which is open for public input until February 20, “would severely restrict the rights of conscience of medical practitioners,” and will have “devastating” consequences, the Ottawa-based Catholic Organization for Life and Family (COLF) charged in a February 4 statement. If the College approves the policy, doctors who want to keep their integrity “may be forced” to leave Ontario or to quit medicine altogether, they said, leaving distressed patients behind. . . [Full text]

Submission to the College of Physicians and Surgeons of Ontario

Re: Professional Obligations and Human Rights

A threat to the supremacy of conscience

Catholic Organization for Life and Family

The College of Physicians and Surgeons of Ontario has proposed a modification in its operational principles which, if adopted, would severely restrict the rights of conscience of medical practitioners in Ontario. The implications of the proposed policy change would be devastating for Ontario doctors who seek to inform their consciences by their faith – and not only by College policy – and who, as a consequence, may be forced to leave the province or the practice of medicine in order to maintain their integrity. These implications would also be disturbing for many patients who want to be treated by physicians who share their vision of the human person.

Freedom of conscience and of religion are guaranteed by Canada’s Charter of Rights and Freedoms (section 2a). These rights, inalienable and universal, derive from the unique dignity of the human person, which constitutes the bedrock on which all human rights rest. Moral discernment demands the right use of reason, which impels us always to seek that which is right and good in order to do what we must and thus cultivate integrity and remain true to ourselves. The human person must always obey the certain judgment of his or her conscience.[1]

By requiring Ontario doctors to provide information about and to facilitate access to procedures which they judge to be gravely immoral – and not in the best interest of their patients – the CPSO’s proposed policy would replace the supremacy of conscience with that of a self-appointed authority functioning outside the sphere of its competence. Let us recall that the medical establishment has often proposed practices which it subsequently repudiated – lobotomy and electric shock treatment to name two of many. The humanization of medicine has come about largely as the result of the efforts of doctors who have found themselves unable, as a matter of conscience, to uphold the medical orthodoxy du jour.

To suggest that any particular practitioner should be compelled to act in a way which contradicts his or her conscience, is to call into question the collective rights of conscience of medical practitioners in general. Taken to its logical conclusion, this position would negate any role the medical establishment itself might legitimately play in determining the ethical acceptability of a given medical procedure.

The Catholic Church articulates the necessity of upholding this universally recognized right of freedom of conscience and religion as follows: “. . . the freedom of conscience of all people, whatever their religion or philosophy of life” is to be defended; “no person [is to be] forced to act against conscience or be prevented from acting according to conscience”.[2] Requiring medical doctors to bracket concerns informed by their particular religious or ethical views violates this fundamental principle. Furthermore, in the context of healthcare, it also risks turning them into mere dispensers of medical services whose good in a given situation is determined by persons other than themselves.

Human experience clearly demonstrates that “the effective recognition of the right to freedom of conscience and religious freedom is one of the highest goods and one of the most serious duties of every people that truly wishes to ensure the good of the individual and of society.”3[3] For all of these reasons we ask the College of Physicians and Surgeons of Ontario to reject the draft policy “Professional Obligations and Human Rights”.


COLF is co-sponsored by the Canadian Conference of Catholic Bishops and the Supreme Council of the Knights of Columbus.

[1]Catechism of the Catholic Church, no. 1800

[2]Dignitatis Humanae (On the Right of the Person and of Communities to Social and Civil Freedom in Matters Religious, Promulgated by His Holiness Pope Paul VI, 7 December 1965), no. 3.

[3]Compendium of the Social Doctrine of the Catholic Church, no. 553.