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Judicial review sought against Ontario physicians’ college over forced referrals

By Deborah Gyapong
Canadian Catholic News

06/29/2016

OTTAWA (CCN) — Members of the Coalition for HealthCARE and Conscience are taking the College of Physicians’ and Surgeons of Ontario (CSPO) to court over its assisted suicide policy.

“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 a June 21 news release. “In our view, effective referral and participating in assisted suicide are morally and ethically the same thing.”

In the release, the Coalition, representing more than 5,000 physicians and 100 health care facilities across the country, said it is “deeply troubled” the directive in Canada’s federal euthanasia and assisted suicide law that “no one should be compelled to participate in euthanasia” is being ignored in Ontario.

The Coalition points out none of the other nine jurisdictions in the world that allow euthanasia or assisted suicide force doctors to provide the procedures or refer to other doctors who will.

Three physicians’ groups that belong to the Coalition have launched a judicial review, asking the court whether the CPSO policy is unconstitutional, the release said.

“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 for accommodation of the rights of conscientious objection of physicians so they can still practice medicine. Suggested accommodations include allowing patients direct access to an assisted suicide assessment, or allowing a “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.”

Polls show most Canadians support conscience rights for health professionals, the release says, citing a recent Nanos Research poll that found 75 per cent agreed doctors “should be able to opt out of offering assisted dying.” Twenty-one per cent disagreed.

The Coalition includes the 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 and the Catholic Health Alliance of Canada.

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