Our submission to the College of Physicians and Surgeons of Ontario regarding its draft Policy on Professional Obligations and Human Rights follows:
Action Life is a non-denominational educational pro-life organization promoting respect for human life from conception to natural death. We count approximately 4,000 supporters in Ottawa and the surrounding region.
Action Life is greatly troubled by the sections of the draft policy pertaining to freedom of conscience and religion for doctors. The draft policy requires physicians who will not provide certain services for reasons of conscience or religious beliefs to refer to another “non-objecting, available, and accessible physician or other health care provider”. For objecting physicians, the act of referral itself would violate their conscience. Physicians should not be forced to refer for services to which they object on moral or religious grounds.
Freedom of conscience and religion are fundamental in a free and democratic society. To demand that physicians leave their conscience at the door is an attack on the physician’s integrity and his constitutional rights to freedom of conscience and religion as enshrined in the Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedoms. Physicians have a right to practice in accordance to their conscience. Patients do not have a right to demand services to which the physician objects. Physicians should be able to work without fear of retribution if they decline to provide services which are in opposition to their moral and religious beliefs. The recent Supreme Court of Canada’s decision on euthanasia and assisted suicide will further increase pressure on physicians. If the physician will not kill the patient or write a prescription for a lethal dose of drugs, will he now be forced to refer to someone who will?
Attacks on the freedom of conscience of physicians continue to mount. We share the grave concerns of some physicians who wonder if the field of medicine will now only be opened to those who are willing to compromise their moral and religious beliefs. The Ontario Medical Association’s Section on General and Family Practice in its August 6, 2014 letter to the College of Physicians and Surgeons observed: “The Section believes it is important to ensure that the public continues to have access to care from the best and brightest minds and we are concerned that quality could suffer if we only accept medical students who are willing to compromise their personal values.”
We ask that the College abandon the sections of its draft policy which would force physicians to act contrary to their conscience and religious beliefs. In its place, the policy should include a protection of conscience clause for physicians to ensure that freedom of conscience and religion is respected.