Action Life sent this submission to a committee of the Legislative Assembly of Ontario considering Bill 84 – An Act to amend various Acts with respect to medical assistance in dying.
March 29, 2017
Committee of the Ontario Legislature
Bill 84- Medical Assistance in Dying Statute Law Amendment Act
Mr. Eric Rennie
Clerk of the Committee
Action Life Ottawa is a non-denominational, non-profit organization promoting respect for human life at all stages from conception to natural death through education. Our organization counts approximately 4,000 supporters in the Ottawa region. We are profoundly concerned about the lack of conscience rights protection in Bill 84 for physicians and other healthcare workers.
Action Life holds that an amendment must be made to the bill to include conscience protection. A policy of the College of Physicians and Surgeons of Ontario (CPSO) on Professional Obligations and Human Rights requires that physicians, who have a conscientious objection to a procedure, in this case, euthanasia and assisted suicide, make an “effective referral” to a willing and accessible physician. The policy of the College even stipulates that in some emergency situations, the objecting physician might have to provide this “care or intervention” even if this goes against his or her conscience. This forced participation, whether by referral or actually performing the procedure is a violation of the freedom of religion and conscience rights contained in the Charter of Rights and Freedoms. Physicians should not be expected to refer or provide services to which they are opposed for reasons of conscience and religion. Conscientiously objecting physicians will face investigation and disciplinary measures by the CPSO for refusing to participate in euthanasia or assisted suicide. Will they in time lose their licence to practise medicine? Many physicians do not wish to be involved in facilitating the suicide and euthanasia deaths of their patients. Some believe effective referrals make them complicit in causing such deaths. We fear that if conscience protection is not included in the bill, many physicians will be left unable to continue to care for and serve their patients.
To force physicians to act against their conscience or religious beliefs would constitute coercion and discrimination. An amendment to Bill 84 providing conscience protection for healthcare workers (physicians, nurse practitioners, pharmacists) would prevent such discrimination against conscientious objectors. The Ontario Medical Association, in response to the College of Physicians and Surgeons of Ontario’s draft policy in 2008 stated:
“It is the OMA’s position that physicians maintain a right to exercise their own moral judgment and freedom of choice in making decisions regarding medical care and that the CPSO not insert itself into the interpretation of human rights statutes.”
We agree with the Ontario Medical Association that “…it should never be professional misconduct for an Ontario physician to act in accordance with his or her religious or moral beliefs.”
Action Life respectfully requests that an amendment be made to Bill 84 to ensure the rights of physicians to practise medicine in accordance with their conscience or religious beliefs.
Thank you for the opportunity to comment on this matter.