Thousands step up in support of doctors’ conscience fight

The Catholic Register

Michael Swan

An Ontario campaign to pressure politicians over the protection of health care conscience rights is “democracy in action,” said an organizer.

The Coalition of HealthCARE has so far collected 19,000 names and e-mail addresses in its “Call for Conscience Campaign.” That does not include results from the Archdiocese of Toronto.

The non-partisan campaign was launched to oppose and raise awareness about regulations that force doctors to refer for assisted suicide and euthanasia against their moral convictions.

By the end of March, people who have signed up during the campaign should receive instructions about how to e-mail all the candidates in their ridings in the run-up to Ontario’s June 7 provincial election. . . [Full text]

World medical body pushes back on conscience fight

The Catholic Register

Michael Swan

The international society of Catholic doctors is using Canada as an example of what can go wrong when doctors are forced to refer for abortion.

The World Federation of Catholic Medical Associations is drawing on Canada’s experience to counter proposals before the World Medical Association to adopt forced referrals and signal ethical acceptance for euthanasia. . . [Full Text]

Canadian court tells doctors they must refer for euthanasia

Will they be hounded out of their profession?

Mercatornet

Michael Cook

For years bioethicists of a utilitarian cast have argued that conscientious objection has no place in medicine. Now Canadian courts are beginning to put their stamp of approval on the extinction of doctors’ right to refuse to kill their patients.

The Superior Court of Justice Division Court of Ontario ruled this week that if doctors are unwilling to perform legal actions, they should find another job.

A group of five doctors and three professional organizations were contesting a policy issued by Ontario’s medical regulator, the College of Physicians and Surgeons of Ontario (CPSO), arguing it infringed their right to freedom of religion and conscience under Canada’s Charter of Rights and Freedoms.

However, Justice Herman J. Wilton-Siegel wrote on behalf of a three-member panel:

“the applicants do not have a common law right or a property right to practise medicine, much less a constitutionally protected right.

“Those who enjoy the benefits of a licence to practise a regulated profession must expect to be subject to regulatory requirements that focus on the public interest, rather than the interests of the professionals themselves.”

At issue is the policy of “effective referral”. A doctor who objects to participating in euthanasia cannot be forced to do it. But he is expected to pass the patient to another doctor who will. The CPSO argues that effective referral is necessary “to protect the public, prevent harm to patients and facilitate access to care for patients in our multicultural, multifaith society, by guiding all physicians on how to uphold their professional and ethical obligations of non-abandonment and of patient-centred care within the context of Ontario’s public health-care system.”

Without the policy of effective referral, equitable access would be “compromised or sacrificed, in a variety of circumstances, more often than not involving vulnerable members of our society at the time of requesting services,” Justice Herman Wilton-Siegel wrote. People in remote communities might request euthanasia. If their doctor refused, they might suffer needlessly and taxpayers would have to foot the bill to subsidise the refusnik’s conscience.

It is remarkable how closely Justice Wilton-Siegel’s text hews to the arguments of bioethicists who have been chipping away at the right to conscientious objection for years.

In 2005 American legal scholar Alta Charo described conscientious objection as “an unfettered  right to personal autonomy while holding monopolistic control over a public good … an abuse of the public trust—all  the worse if it is not in fact a personal act of conscience but, rather, an attempt at cultural conquest’.

In 2006 Oxford’s Julian Savulescu argued in the BMJ that “when conscientious objection compromises the quality, efficiency, or equitable delivery of a service, it should not be tolerated”.

More recently, Canadian bioethicist Udo Schuklenk and a colleague contended in the BMJ that

“If at any given time a doctor is unable to continue practicing due to their—ultimately arbitrary—conscience views, nothing would stop them from leaving the profession and taking up a different vocation. This happens across industries and professions very frequently. Professionals can be expected to take responsibility for the voluntary choices they make.”

Responding to the ruling, Larry Worthen, executive director of the Christian Medical and Dental Society of Canada, said: “We heard from our members and other doctors with conscientious objections over and over again that they felt referral made them complicit and that they wouldn’t be able to live with themselves or stay in the profession if effective referral is still required.”

The case is sure to be appealed, but if the doctors championing conscientious objection fail, the consequences will be dire.

Throughout Canada, doctors would be required to refer for euthanasia. If they refuse, they will be hounded out of their profession, or, at best, shunted into specialties where the question will not arise, like pathology or dermatology.

This ruling shows how quickly tolerance vanishes after euthanasia has been legalised. In the Carter decision which legalised it, Canada’s Supreme Court explicitly stated that legalizing euthanasia did not entail a duty on the part of physicians to provide it. Now, however, 18 months and more than a thousand death after legalisation, conscientious objection is at risk.

It also shows how vulnerable religious-based arguments can be. The plaintiffs contended that referring patients violated their right to religious freedom. While this is true, is this the main ground for conscientious objection? As several doctors pointed out in the Canadian Medical Association Journal last year, “Insofar as all refusals of therapy are ultimately justified by the ethical belief that the goal of therapy is to provide benefit and avoid harm, all treatment refusals are matters of conscience.”


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Doctors set to fight global abortion policy

The Catholic Register

Michael Swan

An ethics policy that demands doctors refer for abortion, even against their conscience, could become a global policy at the next general assembly of the World Medical Association in October.

Catholic and Evangelical doctors in Canada are organizing to oppose the draft policy before it goes to the WMA council meetings in Latvia April 26-28.

“We have asked our members in the Christian Medical and Dental Society to write to the Canadian Medical Society to ask them to lobby on our behalf, to ensure that that change does not get passed,” said Christian Medical and Dental Society of Canada executive director Deacon Larry Worthen.

While a WMA ethics policy would have no legal effect in Canada, the organization’s policies are often a template for future legislation and regulation of the medical profession around the world, said Worthen. WMA policies are also influential in medical schools. . .  [Full Text]

Doctors, advocacy groups address proposed law protecting those who object to assisted dying

CBC News

Holly Caruk

Dr. Frank Ewert wants protection from having to help a patient die — but Dying with Dignity Canada doesn’t want that to happen at the cost of patients receiving full access to end-of-life options.

“When I started back a number of years ago and vowed to follow the Hippocratic oath, I meant it. It was very profound to me, it resonated with my core beliefs, that I would always respect life, that I would do nothing to harm a patient,” Ewert told a legislative committee on Monday evening. . . [Full text]

 

Canadian doctors face questions over assisted suicide, euthanasia for minors

” . . .conscientious objection in Canada, unfortunately, hangs by a thread . . .”

The Catholic Register

Catholic News Agency

Ottawa – Only one year after assisted suicide and voluntary euthanasia became legal for adults in Canada, a new study is showing that some of the country’s pediatricians are being faced with questions about the practices for minors.

The study, which surveyed 1,050 doctors and was published by the Canadian Paediatric Society, found that more than ten percent of Canadian pediatricians have had conversations with parents or minors about the option of assisted suicide or euthanasia for terminal patients under the age of 18. . . [Full text]

Conscientious objection in assisted suicide cases under threat in Ontario

Crux

Kevin J. Jones

TORONTO, Canada – Conscience protections for Catholic hospitals and other organizations could soon come under fire in the Canadian province of Ontario, with one assisted suicide group saying they may challenge this legislation in court.

Deacon Larry Worthen, executive director of the Christian Medical and Dental Society of Canada, warned that it becomes very difficult to defend objections to assisted suicide once it becomes legal.

“Of course our position would be that there should be no requirement for faith-based institutions to be involved in assisted suicide or euthanasia,” the deacon said. “It’s appropriate that not only the institution, but the individuals should be protected as well.” . . . [Full text]

 

Ontario conscience rights case now in judges’ hands

Catholic Register

Michael Swan

TORONTO – Three days and nearly two dozen lawyers arguing the broad principles and technical details of constitutional law before a three-judge has panel left Christian Medical and Dental Society executive director Deacon Larry Worthen “cautiously optimistic.”

“The court certainly heard our arguments,” Worthen told The Catholic Register on June 15 outside the courtroom as lawyers shook hands and dispersed in the hallways of historic Osgoode Hall.

The trial before the Ontario Court of Justice was likely the first leg in a battle all the combatants expect will end in at the Supreme Court of Canada. Five dissenting Christian doctors who all object to abortion, chemical birth control, petri-dish human fertilization and assisted suicide asked the court to strike down a 2015 College of Physicians and Surgeons of Ontario rule that forces them to provide an “effective referral” for services they reject on the basis of their religious faith or conscience. . . [Full text]

 

Doctors challenge Ontario policy on assisted-death referrals

Physicians go to court over requirement to send patients to other doctors if they don’t want to provide medical assistance in dying.

Toronto Star

Alex Mckeen

A group of doctors has mounted a legal challenge to an Ontario policy that requires them to refer patients to other doctors for medical assistance in dying.

The Christian Medical and Dental Society of Canada, the Canadian Federation of Catholic Physicians’ Societies and Canadian Physicians for Life, along with five individual physicians, are arguing at Ontario Superior Court this week that the Charter of Rights and Freedoms protects them from being required to refer patients elsewhere if they don’t want to help those patients end their lives.

They are fighting a policy of the College of Physicians and Surgeons of Ontario that says doctors must provide an “effective referral” if they refuse to help a patient end their life due to “reasons of conscience or religion.” . . . [Full text]

 

Conservative MPP Yurek keeps up fight for conscience rights with bill

The Catholic Register

Evan Boudreau

The Ontario Liberals’ rejection of amendments to its assisted suicide legislation leaves MPP Jeff Yurek “very disappointed” but not defeated as the Conservative prepares to introduce a private member’s bill to protect conscience rights for doctors and health care workers.

On May 18, the Conservative’s bill will be brought forward to the legislature for an evaluation of the pros and cons. While Yurek expects scrutiny similar to that which faced Bill 84 amendments, he’s still hopeful to garner support from the majority of his political peers.

But that will require the votes of Liberal MPPs, who Yurek hopes will be influenced by their conscience and not the will of party leaders. . . [Full text]