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

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, Arch Diocese 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.