Dr. Coelho’s ‘crazy’ battle for conscience rights

The Catholic Register

Michael Swan

It’s not surprising patients fall in love with Dr. Ramona Coelho. Not just because she’s a young, pretty doctor who smiles easily, laughs frequently and focuses her attention completely on whoever is talking to her.

Her patients in London, Ont., know that she’s a doctor who is in it for something more than the status, money or security attached to most medical practices.

“I love my work,” Coelho confesses. “I love being a doctor. I love helping people and being with them — trying to find solutions for them.”

Her practice is heavily slanted to marginalized patients. Her waiting room is full of refugees, ex-cons, the poor. Many of her patients are on permanent disability.

All that is at risk as the College of Physicians and Surgeons of Ontario mounts an ever more prickly defense of its “Professional Obligations and Human Rights Policy.” The policy is currently before the courts. It would force Ontario doctors to refer for abortions and for assisted suicide.  . . [Full text]

Catholic health workers face crisis of conscience

The Catholic Register

Michael Swan

TORONTO – Dr. Luigi Castagna doesn’t think of practicing medicine as a protest movement. But a stalemate over conscience rights for doctors who object to physician-assisted dying may change that.

“We may have to resort to civil disobedience,” Castagna told The Catholic Register.

Castagna is a member and former president of the St. Joseph Moscati Toronto Catholic Doctors’ Guild. He doesn’t think helping a patient commit suicide is good medicine and he doesn’t think he should refer suicidal patients to doctors who believe it their duty to accommodate requests for death.

“You do, on occasion, encounter suicidal patients,” said Castagna. “That’s how we saw them before the (Supreme Court) decision. They were suicidal. It’s a psychological condition and you find out the reason. You do what you do with any patient. You do a history, a physical examination. You establish a diagnosis and you treat them. Successful treatment means that they now wish to live again.”

Given the College of Physicians and Surgeons of Ontario policy that forces doctors to provide an “effective referral” for any recognized, legal medical procedure or treatment, even in those cases where the doctor objects on moral or religious grounds, there is great fear among members of the Doctors’ Guild they will be forced to refer for assisted suicide. . . [Full text]

Ban conscientious objection by Canadian doctors, urge ethicists in volatile commentary

National Post

Tom Blackwell

Authorities should bar doctors from refusing to provide such services as abortion and assisted death on moral grounds, and screen out potential medical students who might impose their values on patients, leading Canadian and British bioethicists argue in a provocative new commentary.

The paper by professors at Queen’s and Oxford universities, who are also editors of two major bioethics journals, throws rocket fuel onto a debate already inflamed by the new law allowing assisted death.

They argue that physicians have no right to opt out of lawful medical services — from abortion to prescribing contraceptives — that are requested by a patient and in the person’s interest.

Those who let conscientious objection affect patient care are clearly unprofessional, say Udo Schuklenk and Julian Savulescu.

“Doctors must put patients’ interests ahead of their own integrity,” they write in the journal Bioethics. . . [Full text]

    

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

Doctor-assisted dying: Why religious conscience must be part of the debate

The Globe and Mail

Lorna Dueck

The competing rights of freedom of conscience, freedom of religion and access to physician-assisted death are at an impasse in Canada. When the Supreme Court last year struck down Criminal Code prohibitions on doctor-assisted death, the issue of conscience rights jumped urgently into the national discussion. A religiously informed conscience complicates things further, and thousands of health-care professionals and hundreds of religiously based health-care institutions are demanding that their Charter rights be protected.

If the recommendations from the parliamentary committee for new legislation are accepted and approved by the June 6 deadline, Canada would be by far the most liberal country in the world for medical assistance in dying. It would also become the most repressive on conscience rights, because the committee recommended that conscientious objectors refer death-seeking patients to another doctor or health-care facility – something that many people informed by a sense of duty to God and neighbour cannot do. . . [Full text]

 

Canada’s largest Catholic archdiocese mobilizing against assisted-dying law

The Globe and Mail

Affain Chowdhry

Canada’s largest Catholic archdiocese is mobilizing its members to pressure federal politicians tasked with shaping new doctor-assisted dying legislation by June to protect vulnerable groups and to exempt doctors, nurses and Catholic hospitals from having to provide those services because it goes against their religious beliefs.

Cardinal Thomas Collins, the Archbishop of Toronto, used a sermon on Sunday at St. Paul’s Basilica in downtown Toronto to argue that forcing Catholic doctors to refer patients to medically assisted dying services was a “violation of conscience” and amounted to religious discrimination. . . [Full text]