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Conscience rights of Ontario doctors ignored

Update April 13, 2015: Read “Tunnel vision at the College of Physicians” in the National Post here.

Last summer, the College of Physicians and Surgeons Ontario (CPSO) asked for public consultation for changing their policy on “balancing” the conscience rights of doctors with the rights of patients to receive whatever treatment they wanted from whatever doctor they approached.

At stake is whether doctors have the right to refuse treatment if they have conscientious objections to the treatment. If a doctor felt a particular treatment or prescription was unwise, immoral, medically unnecessary or otherwise harmful, can he refuse to provide or refer for the treatment? For example, can a Christian doctor refuse to prescribe birth control pills if that particular doctor thinks that such a prescription is unethical, or is simply bad medicine? What if the objection is religiously motivated? These are not just hypothetical questions: three doctors in Ottawa recently came under fire for refusing to prescribe the birth control pill.

ARPA Canada prepared a formal submission to the CPSO in August, giving public policy reasons for leaving physicians’ conscience rights in tact. Indeed, when God created mankind, he created us with a conscience to guide our actions, making each of us individually responsible for the choices we make. When it comes to Christian physicians in particular, that conscience is something that others, particularly the powerful State, should not interfere with. Even though the conscience too is horribly tainted by sin, for the State (run by other people whose consciences are also horribly tainted by sin) to coerce others to act in defiance of what they know to be wrong is an incredible assault on their person.

The CPSO has now come out with their finalized policy and it doesn’t look good. You can see their policy here and their FAQs on the policy here. There are many legal problems with this policy. The Christian Medical & Dental Society prepared a thorough legal submission which you can read here. The Justice Centre for Constitutional Freedoms also made a submission, available here. Both point to legal deficiencies in the policy. But most importantly, those who drafted the CPSO’s policy obviously have little regard for Christian moral teaching and just don’t understand the severity of what we object to. For example, in the FAQ document, the CPSO says that a doctor who objects to providing abortions must provide an effective referral to a doctor who will. Think about this: if abortion is the murder of a unique human being created by God in His image, how could any Christian then send that baby to a different executioner? It makes no sense – the referral is just as bad as doing the procedure itself.

We ask for prayers for all Christian doctors in Ontario (and in Saskatchewan – the same policy is being pushed there too). We also ask for prayers for discernment for doctors and lawyers as they discuss legal challenges to this policy. Finally, you can send an EasyMail letter to your Ontario MPP, asking them to do what they can to protect conscience rights. You can find a template EasyMail on this topic here.

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