Legislation / Court Cases

Ontario Doctors Association May Curtail Freedom of Conscience (9/08)

The College of Physicians and Surgeons of Ontario held a public comment period for a draft policy on conscience rights for medical doctors.

Dr. Will Johnston, president of Canadian Physicians for Life, said under the new proposed policy, “Refusal on conscientious or religious grounds to refer a woman for an abortion could be deemed professional misconduct.”

The new draft policy document, “Physicians and the Ontario Human Rights Code” says “a physician who refuses to provide a service or refuses to accept a patient on the basis of a prohibited ground such as sex or sexual orientation may be acting contrary to the (Human Rights) Code, even if the refusal is based on the physician’s moral or religious belief.”

As an example, the document suggests a physician would violate the Code by refusing to provide artificial procreation to a homosexual.

The change is justified by the Ontario College of Physicians and Surgeons as a pre-emptive response to potential human rights commission complaints.

The new policy would seriously undermine the right of physicians to act on conscience or religious conviction – and violate the conscience rights recognized by the codes of the Canadian Medical Association.

As Montreal-based physician and frequent National Post letter writer Dr. Roy Eappen says, “I am absolutely appalled that the College feels it can force me to violate my own ethics and principles.” But as Dr. Eappen wonders, what about the human rights of doctors and other medical professionals? Why must they lose their rights?

The Protection of Conscience Project, a group devoted to freedom of conscience for professionals, is joining forces with Physicians for Life in demanding an extension of the comment period for the draft policy.

Dr. Johnston concluded, “There could be serious problems with what the Ontario College is proposing and we need time to study the implications of this policy in detail. If doctors feel coerced into compromising their deepest convictions as a result of this policy, certainly that’s a problem – not only for the integrity of physicians, but also for the welfare of their patients.”

Action Item: To express concerns to the College contact: [email protected] or write Andréa Foti, College of Physicians and Surgeons of Ontario, 80 College St., Toronto, Ontario, M5G 2E2 or call (416) 967-2600 ext. 387, fax (416) 967-2644 or email her directly at [email protected] [September 08, CLC National News]