While we are heartened that Bill C-14 included some conscience protections for Canadians, these protections did not go far enough to protect health care workers in Ontario.
Ontario’s healthcare providers and workers are now susceptible to violations of their conscience rights.
How is Ontario at risk?
- The College of Physicians and Surgeons of Ontario has passed policies requiring physicians to refer for, and in some cases perform, physician-assisted suicide, even if those procedures go against their conscience.
- The Ontario government introduced Bill 84 (Medical Assistance in Dying Statute Law Amendment Act) to outline the process for physician-assisted suicide in Ontario. This legislation does not currently contain any conscience protections for doctors or healthcare providers in Ontario.
The College of Physicians and Surgeons of Ontario are violating our conscience rights, and the Province of Ontario is not protecting us.
Forced participation violates constitutional rights:
Forcing healthcare providers to violate their conscience rights directly impedes our constitutional right to freedom of conscience and religion guaranteed under the Charter (Section 2).
Forced participation is a form of discrimination:
Requiring healthcare workers to participate in assisted death as a condition of employment is a form of discrimination and is subject to a section 15 Charter challenge. It also violates the spirit of the conscience protections enshrined in Bill C-14.
We believe physician-assisted suicide goes against the very core of why our members became physicians, which is to help heal people or support them in their natural dying process.
If these policies enacted at the provincial level remain in place, many healthcare providers and facilities will be unable to continue to serve their patients.
Provincial policies and the legislation introduced in Ontario must protect healthcare professionals against being forced to perform or refer for these procedures or being discriminated against because of their conscientious objection. They must also ensure that no facility will be coerced to provide these services against their organizational values.
Provincial regulations on physician-assisted death must have conscience protection for healthcare workers, and facilities like hospitals and nursing homes.
Our proposal respects the conscience rights of doctors and healthcare facilities, without interfering with the patient’s choice for assisted death.
This means the provincial government would create a process allowing patients to directly access a care coordination service which would provide access to a range of services for the patient, including assessments for physician-assisted suicide or euthanasia.
The patient would then have the option of directly accessing this service or initiating a complete transfer of care to another physician. Physicians would therefore not have to refer. Patients who request this procedure at a facility that does not provide it could be transferred to another facility.
The proposal balances the rights of both patient and doctor, ensuring all rights are respected and no patient is abandoned.