‘This is moral genocide’: Canadian doctors blast plans to force them into helping patients procure abortion

LifeSite News

Steve Weatherbe

REGINA, Saskatchewan, February 17, 2015 (LifeSiteNews.com) – Christian doctors across Canada are vowing to challenge the constitutionality of the requirement now being considered by the Saskatchewan medical profession that all its members be required to perform abortions or assist at suicides—or refer patients to other doctors who will.

“This is moral genocide,” Saskatoon emergency room doctor Philip Fitzpatrick says of the policy, already approved in principle without consultation with doctors or the public by the Saskatchewan College of Physicians and Surgeons.

“There’s no medical reason for these clauses overriding our consciences,” he continued. “The people who want euthanasia and abortion on demand just don’t like the fact somebody disagrees. They are trying to chase us out of the profession.”

“We have to sue the College if it approves this policy,” Larry Worthen, executive director of the Christian Dental and Medical Association of Canada, told LifeSiteNews. “Half our members will have to quit if it were enforced. It goes against their very reason for being in medicine.” . . .[Full Text]

Submission to the College of Physicians and Surgeons of Ontario

Re: Professional Obligations and Human Rights

Christian Medical & Dental Society, Canadian Federation of Catholic Physician Societies

The Christian Medical and Dental Society of Canada (“CMDS”) and the Canadian Federation of Catholic Physician Societies (“CFCPS”) welcome this opportunity to provide feedback to the College of Physicians and Surgeons of Ontario (“CPSO”) on the draft policy “Professional Obligations and Human Rights”. Together our organizations represent 1800 physicians, all of whom are seriously concerned about the implications of the policy and their ability to continue to practice medicine should the policy be passed.

Freedom of conscience

Freedom of conscience is protected under the Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedoms. As a creature of provincial statute, the CPSO is bound by the Charter, and must respect it. Yet this draft policy requires physicians to refer for, and in some cases carry out services that are contrary to their conscience. (Lines 156-168)

Conscience rights were recently reasserted by the Supreme Court of Canada in the Carter case. The Court confirmed that “a physician’s decision to participate in assisted dying is a matter of conscience” (para 132). The Court favourably cited the factum of the CMDS and CFCPS who had reproduced the comments of Justice Beetz in Morgentaler (para 132), who stated that a physician could not be compelled to participate in abortion. These comments are directly applicable to the draft policy and we urge the CPSO to revise the draft in light of the Supreme Court’s decision.

The reasoning of the Carter case can also be used to determine whether s.1 of the Charter can be used to limit doctors’ freedom of conscience. The Carter case made clear that in the absence of evidence that patients are being denied a Charter right, the Court will determine that it is not necessary to force physicians to refer patients or perform procedures in violation of the physician’s Charter right to freedom of conscience and religion. It is noteworthy as well, that the Charter does not apply to physicians, but rather, protects them. Under the principles in Carter physicians who object to engaging in certain procedures or pharmaceuticals, including through referrals, will be successful if they can show that there is a regulatory system that ensures access to procedures like abortion and euthanasia without incorporating the conscientiously objecting physician into the process of referral. This test is already met, because in Ontario patients can access abortion through self- referral. There is no reason to insist that a conscientiously objecting physician refer for abortion when the patient already can self refer.

Furthermore, it is not the CPSO’s role to ensure access to abortions. Even if it were, there would be an onus on the CPSO to prove that it cannot ensure access to abortions without infringing on the Charter rights of individual physicians (para. 118). A theoretical or speculative fear cannot justify an infringement (para. 119).

There is no human right in Canada to demand and receive particular services from a specific physician. Provincial human rights legislation prohibits discrimination against the public on a number of grounds that include among others, race, ethnicity, sex, religion, sexual orientation, age or disability. Human rights legislation does not dictate what services must be delivered. So, if a restaurant chooses not to serve pork because of the owner’s religious beliefs, there is no violation. If the restaurant chooses to exclude people of a particular ethnic group, however, that would amount to discrimination and a violation of provincial human rights legislation. In the same way, a physician who is unable to participate in a procedure or prescribe a pharmaceutical product for moral or religious reasons is not discriminating against his or her patient provided all patients are treated the same. Unfortunately, this draft policy suggests that a physician’s objection to a specific procedure or pharmaceutical may be a violation of a patient’s rights under the Charter or the Code. This reference makes clear that those who prepared this policy misunderstand the application and function of Ontario and Canadian law.

Provided the services are delivered in a respectful way, there are no competing rights. In such a case, the only human rights present are the physician’s human rights to freedom of religion and freedom of conscience. Furthermore, when the physician is an employee they have the additional right to be accommodated by their employer. [Full text]

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]


Freedom to Care: The Threat to Conscience Rights in Medicine

The CMDS web page has additional information on this issue on their web site including posters, newsletter inserts, talking points, instructions on how to access the Colleges and answer their surveys, legal opinions, articles and our brief to the OMA.

The deadlines for public input are looming – Ontario is February 20th, Saskatchewan is March 6.

Please help by spreading the word about their video and resources to your contacts. This might spur more people on to getting involved in this issue and expressing their concerns to the colleges.

Submission to the College of Physicians and Surgeons of Ontario

Re: Professional Obligations and Human Rights

Christian Medical and Dental Society

I am generally able to agree with the draft policy Physicians and the Ontario Human Rights Code. Physicians should not discriminate against their patients nor should physicians impose their religious beliefs on a patient. Patients should be adequately informed of their options for care. The majority of the policy outlines this nicely.

Despite the first part of the policy reading well, I do not believe this is a policy that should be adopted. Lines 156-168 are very concerning. All Canadians, under The Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedoms, have the right to live according to their religious and moral beliefs. Stating that a physician must refer a patient for a service that goes against his or her conscience disqualifies that right. It reduces his/her personal sense of integrity and creates internal conflict that may force very compassionate and effective physicians out of practice. It would not affect the right of the patient to receive care since a procedure such as abortion can be self-referred and, if a patient disagrees with a physician’s perspective, they are able to obtain a second opinion.

Presently, the Supreme Court of Canada is considering a case that may lead to the legalization of euthanasia in Canada. Should this happen, the draft policy could obligate physicians, who strongly feel that killing is wrong, to participate in an act of killing, i.e. euthanasia or physician assisted suicide. This is very concerning.

This past spring and summer the College conducted an online survey with the question “Do you think a physician should be allowed to refuse to provide a patient with a treatment or procedure because it conflicts with the physician’s religious or moral beliefs?”. Yes votes amounted to 25,230 or 77% of the total count. This is a large majority in favour of physicians being able to practice according to their consciences. This is a very large sample of the population (32,912) that voted. I am amazed, then, that the College should disregard this viewpoint as lines 156-168 of the draft policy indicate.

I sincerely hope that you will reconsider adoption of this policy. Revision of lines 156-168 to omit the obligation to refer for or, in certain cases, perform procedures that go against their moral or religious beliefs should be made. Anything less than that would go against The Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedoms, against the popular vote in Ontario and certainly against the well-being of many Ontario doctors.

Christian Medical Professionals support Alberta bill

News Release

Christian Medical and Dental Society (CMDS)

The Calgary and Edmonton Chapters of the Christian Medical and  Dental Society of Canada are in support of Bill 212, The Human Rights, Citizenship and Multiculturalism Amendment Act, which would protect healthcare workers’ conscience rights.

Increasingly, we hear of institutions and organizations placing pressure on healthcare     workers to act contrary to their convictions, especially as technological advances     challenge traditional ethical boundaries. Canada has a long history of recognizing the     rights of freedom of conscience; however, healthcare workers are feeling increasingly     vulnerable. Many are calling for explicit legislation to protect them from being required  to refer for or participate directly or indirectly in medical procedures or treatments  that violate their convictions without fear of discrimination, dismissal, or harassment.

Certainly, physicians and other healthcare workers must provide care in  life-threatening emergencies to all people regardless of ethnic origin, creed, etc.: this  is consistent with the Hippocratic tradition. Also in keeping with the Hippocratic tradition is the inviolable tenet that human life is sacred, regardless of stage.  Consequently, those who solemnly hold these principles must not be pressured to act contrary to them as they are foundational to the integrity of the profession and the trust of the public. In matters of choice, healthcare workers are positioned to fully inform patients of all their legal options, but they must not be obligated to participate in a patient’s choice of treatment.

CMDS desires an open discussion of the issue of conscience-protection legislation and, to this end, invites healthcare workers to bring their concerns to the attention of their professional organizations, politicians, and members of the public.

For further information: In Calgary, contact Dr. W. Joseph Askin at 236-1500 In Edmonton, contact Dr. Gunnar Myrholm at 465-0951

Christian Medical and Dental Society (CMDS) #26, 7740 18 St. S.E. Calgary, AB T2C 2N5 Tel:  (403) 236-1500 Fax (403) 236-2839