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]

Health professionals to court: Don’t allow Vermont to force us to help kill patients

 News Release

Alliance Defending Freedom

RUTLAND, Vt. – Alliance Defending Freedom Senior Counsel Steven H. Aden and ADF-allied attorney Michael Tierney will be available for media interviews Tuesday following a federal court hearing in a health care professionals’ lawsuit against Vermont officials in two state agencies. The medical professionals are asking the court to stop those agencies from forcing physicians and other health care workers to help kill their patients while their lawsuit proceeds and are asking the court to reject the agencies’ request to dismiss the lawsuit.

ADF attorneys and Tierney represent the Vermont Alliance for Ethical Healthcare and the Christian Medical and Dental Association, groups of medical professionals who wish to abide by their oath to “do no harm.”

“The government shouldn’t be telling health care professionals that they must violate foundational medical ethics in order to practice medicine,” said Aden, who will argue before the court Tuesday. “Because the state has no authority to order them to act contrary to that reasonable and time-honored conviction, we are asking the court to allow this lawsuit to proceed and to ensure that no state agency is able to force them to violate their ethics while this lawsuit moves forward.”

The state agencies, the Board of Medical Practice and the Office of Professional Regulation, are reading the state’s assisted suicide law to require health care professionals, regardless of their conscience or oath, to counsel patients on doctor-prescribed death as an option. Although Act 39, Vermont’s assisted suicide bill, passed with a very limited protection for attending physicians who don’t wish to dispense death-inducing drugs themselves, state medical licensing authorities have construed a separate, existing mandate to counsel and refer for “all options” for palliative care to include a mandate that all patients hear about the “option” of assisted suicide.

As the brief in support of the requested motion for preliminary injunction in Vermont Alliance for Ethical Healthcare v. Hoser explains, “Vermont’s Act 39 makes the State the first and only one to mandate that all licensed healthcare professionals counsel terminal patients about the availability and procedures for physician-assisted suicide, and refer them to willing prescribers to dispense the death-dealing drug. Act 39 coerces professionals to counsel patients about the ‘benefits’ of assisted suicide—benefits that Plaintiffs’ members do not believe exist—and in addition stands in opposition to a federal law protecting healthcare professionals who cannot participate in assisted suicide for conscientious reasons.”

“Because Plaintiffs’ attempts to repeal or amend the law have proven futile, and enforcement is imminent,” the brief continues, “Plaintiffs…[ask] for a preliminary injunction enjoining Defendants from enforcing the provisions of Act 39…and its incorporated statutes…against their members for declining to counsel or refer patients diagnosed with ‘terminal conditions’ on the availability of physician-assisted suicide.”


Alliance Defending Freedom is an alliance-building, non-profit legal organization that advocates for the right of people to freely live out their faith.

 

Doctor, multiple pregnancy care centers file federal suit over Illinois mandate to promote abortion

SB 1564 violates federal law, Constitution

News Release

Alliance Defending Freedom

ROCKFORD, Ill. – Alliance Defending Freedom attorneys representing multiple pregnancy care centers, a pregnancy care center network, and a doctor and her medical practice filed suit Thursday in federal court against Gov. Bruce Rauner after he recently signed a bill into law that forces them to promote abortion regardless of their ethical or moral views. The lawsuit also names Bryan Schneider, secretary of the Illinois Department of Financial and Professional Regulation.

ADF sent a letter to Rauner in May on behalf of numerous pro-life physicians, pregnancy care centers, and pregnancy care center network organizations advising him that the bill, SB 1564, would violate federal law and therefore place federal funding, including Medicaid reimbursements, in jeopardy. ADF also warned legislators about the problems with the bill last year. The lawsuit claims the new law, which is actually an amendment to the existing Illinois Healthcare Right of Conscience Act, violates federal law and the U.S. Constitution.

“No state should attempt to rob women of the freedom to choose a pro-life doctor, but that is the choice that Illinois is eliminating by mandating that pro-life physicians and entities make or arrange abortion referrals. To make matters worse, the state did this by amending a law designed specifically to protect freedom of conscience,” said ADF Senior Counsel Matt Bowman. “As our lawsuit explains, the law is incompatible with the U.S. Constitution and both federal and state law, which protect citizens from being forced by the government to live and act in a way contrary to their faith and conscience.”

The new law forces pregnancy care centers, medical facilities, and physicians who conscientiously object to involvement in abortions to adopt policies that provide women who ask for abortions with a list of providers “they reasonably believe may offer” them. Both federal and state law prohibit the government from placing burdens on religious conscience without a compelling interest for doing so. Additionally, the Illinois Constitution protects “liberty of conscience,” saying that “no person shall be denied any civil or political right, privilege or capacity, on account of his religious opinions.” Both the Illinois Constitution and the U.S. Constitution protect free speech, which includes the right not to be compelled by government to speak a message contrary to one’s own conscience.

“Medical professionals and pregnancy care centers shouldn’t be forced to speak a message completely at odds with their mission and ethics,” explained ADF Senior Counsel Kevin Theriot. “The centers offer women free information and services and do so at no cost to the government. They empower women who are or think they may be pregnant to give birth in circumstances where they may want to but don’t feel they have the necessary resources or social support. All SB 1564 accomplishes is to eliminate this choice for the women who need it most.”

Mauck & Baker LLC attorneys Noel Sterett and Whitman Briskey, two of nearly 3,100 private attorneys allied with ADF, are co-counsel in the case, National Institute of Family and Life Advocates v. Rauner, filed in the U.S. District Court for the Northern District of Illinois. ADF attorneys filed a similar lawsuit in state court last month.

  • Pronunciation guide: Bowman (BOH’-min)

Alliance Defending Freedom is an alliance-building, non-profit legal organization that advocates for the right of people to freely live out their faith.

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.

Winnebago County LPN Sues Over Loss Of Job Due To Religious Beliefs

Northern Public Radio

A licensed practical nurse is suing the Winnebago County Health Department over allegedly violating her religious conscience.

Sandra Mendoza worked in the pediatrics unit until it was consolidated with women’s health and began offering contraception and abortion referrals.  Citing her Catholic beliefs, she petitioned for an accommodation from the hospital.  Her attorney, Noel Sterett, says what was offered in July of last year, either inspecting food or nursing home work, amounted to a demotion. . . [Full Text]

  

ACLU loses case to force Catholic hospital to perform abortions

LifeSite News

Ben Johnson

DETROIT, April 11, 2016 (LifeSiteNews) – A Michigan judge has thrown out the ACLU’s lawsuit attempting to force a nationwide chain of Catholic hospitals to perform abortions.

The U.S. District Court for the Eastern District of Michigan, Southern Division dismissed the case, saying the liberal legal organization lacks standing to sue.

The ACLU filed suit against Trinity Health Corporation, which operates 86 health care facilities in 21 states nationwide, last October because Trinity – a Catholic institution – abides by the U.S. Bishops’ Ethical and Religious Directives (ERDs), which bar physicians from taking unborn human life. . . [Full text]

 

Here’s What Actually Happens When You Fight for Conscience Rights

A family places its trust in God as it battles Washington state for the right to run their pharmacy and grocery store in line with Catholic teachings.

National Catholic Register

Loredana Vuoto

OLYMPIA, Wash. — Every morning, Greg Stormans contemplates a Bible verse perched in a tiny frame above his bathroom sink, which his daughter handwrote: “This is the day which the Lord has made; let us rejoice and be glad in it” (Psalm 118:24).

This verse sets the tone for his entire day and life.

“When I first heard this verse, even at a young age, it had an impact on me. It really changed my life and how I view it,” Stormans, one of the owners of Ralph’s Thriftway in Olympiatold CNA.

“Every day when I get up, I remember that the Lord has made it and that I should be happy and grateful. You have to share this and be happy, knowing that God has given you a purpose in life.”

Stormans and his family, who have been operating the small grocery story and pharmacy for the past four generations, had no idea they would be at the center of a firestorm in 2007, when the Washington Pharmacy Commission began to require pharmacies to dispense the potentially abortion-inducing drugs Plan B and ella, and make conscience-based referrals illegal.

Devout Catholics, the Stormans decided that they could not sell abortion-related drugs, because it was against their deepest convictions to sell drugs that “promote death.” . . . [Full text]

 

Tunnel vision at the College of Physicians

National Post

Sean Murphy

The College of Physicians and Surgeons of Ontario has adopted a policy requiring physicians who have moral or ethical objections to a procedure to make an “effective referral” of patients to a colleague who will provide it, or to an agency that will arrange for it. In 2008, amidst great controversy, the Australian state of Victoria passed an abortion law with a similar provision.

After the law passed, a Melbourne physician, morally opposed to abortion, publicly announced that he had refused to provide an abortion referral for a patient. This effectively challenged the government and medical regulator to prosecute or discipline him. They did not. The law notwithstanding, no one dared prosecute him for refusing to help a woman 19 weeks pregnant obtain an abortion because she and her husband wanted a boy, not a girl.

They obtained the abortion without the assistance of the objecting physician, and they could have done the same in Ontario. College Council member Dr. Wayne Spotswood, himself an abortion provider, told Council that everyone 15 or 16 years old knows that anyone refused an abortion by one doctor “can walk down the street” to obtain the procedure elsewhere.

So why did the College working group that drafted the demand for “effective referral” urge College Council to adopt a policy that so clearly has the potential to make the College look ridiculous? . . .[Full text]

Court challenge raises issue of “reasonable apprehension of bias”

Sean Murphy*

The College of Physicians and Surgeons of Ontario is facing a court challenge by the Christian Medical and Dental Society and the Canadian Federation of Catholic Physicians’ Societies.  They have filed an application in the Ontario Superior Court of Justice asking for an injunction against enforcement of the College’s controversial new policy, Professional Obligations and Human Rights.  According to the application the College acknowledged that it had received 15,977 submissions during the second consultation concerning the policy, which ended on 20 February, 2015.  The great majority of submissions opposed the policy.

While the consultation ended on 20 February, a working group wrote the final version of the policy by 11 February, at least nine days before the consultation closed.  This is one of the factors that gives rise to concern about what the CMDS application calls either “actual bias” or “a reasonable apprehension of bias” on the part of the working group.

On this point, the statistics provided by the College are of interest.

submissionsAccording to the briefing note supplied to the College Council, by 11 February, 2015 the College had received 3,105 submissions.  This means that 12,872 submissions were received from 12 to 20 February inclusive.  In other words, over 80% of the submissions in the second consultation were received after the final version of the policy was written.

Moreover, allowing sufficient time to receive feedback is only the beginning.  Having received them, one would expect that a working group seriously interested in feedback would allow sufficient time to review and analyse the submissions.

During the 64 days of consultation ending 11 February, the College received an average of almost 50 submissions per day.  There were 43 working days during that period.  Assuming someone spent eight full hours every working day reading the submissions, it would have taken one person about seven minutes to review each one.

analysisHowever, during the nine days of consultation ending 20 February, the College received an average of 60 submissions every hour.  With 16 working days available from 12 February to 5 March inclusive, the day before the Council meeting, one person reading eight hours a day would have had no more than 36 seconds to review each submission.

Presumably this will be one of the issues to which the attention of the court will be directed if the case goes to trial.

Christian doctors’ group says new college policy infringes on freedom of conscience

Christian Medical and Dental Society seeks protection from a College of Physicians rule requiring doctors to refer patients seeking abortions and, once it’s legal, euthanasia.

Toronto Star

Lauren Pelly

With physician-assisted suicide on the horizon, the Christian Medical and Dental Society of Canada is asking the Ontario Superior Court to declare that a new regulatory policy infringes upon doctors’ freedom of conscience.

The society, which represents close to 1,700 members, filed documents in court on Friday regarding the CPSO’s Professional Obligations and Human Rights policy that was announced on March 6. The policy means doctors who refuse to refer patients for services on religious and moral grounds, including abortions, could face discipline from their regulating body. . . [Full Text]