Catholic Civil Rights League executive director Christian Elia Register file photo

Ontario physicians college draft policy would trample conscience rights

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  • December 12, 2014

OTTAWA - The College of Physicians and Surgeons of Ontario's draft human rights policy would trample religious freedom and freedom of conscience, say groups defending those rights.

“Prominent academics and activists want to force objecting physicians to provide or refer for abortion and contraception,” said a news release from the Protection of Conscience Project. “They and others have led increasingly strident campaigns to suppress freedom of conscience among physicians to achieve that goal. The College’s draft policy clearly reflects their influence.”

While the draft policy does not require doctors to perform treatments that violate their consciences or religious beliefs, it does require them to refer patients to doctors who will.

The Project warned campaigns against doctors who refuse to provide or refer for abortion “are dress rehearsals for eventual campaigns against physicians who refuse to kill patients.”

“It is not a coincidence that activists who would force objecting physicians to facilitate abortion and contraception also intend to force objectors to refer for euthanasia — and for the same reasons,” it said.

“The Project insists that it is incoherent and contrary to sound public policy to include a requirement to do what one believes to be wrong in a professional code of ethics. It is also an affront to the best traditions of liberal democracy, and, ultimately, dangerous.”

“The draft policy is unacceptable to Catholic physicians as it stands because of the requirement to refer patients to other doctors to perform procedures and administer prescriptions in areas that violate Church teachings regarding life,” said Catholic Civil Rights League executive director Christian Elia. “Forcing Catholic physicians to do more than simply make the patient aware other doctors exist puts the Catholic physician in a position where he or she is complicit in an evil act.

“It should be sufficient that the Catholic physician simply explain his or her objections on moral or religious grounds and to simply let the patient be aware there are other physicians out there,” Elia said. “Requiring Catholic physicians to actually aid and assist a patient through a direct referral process is going too far and the involvement puts the Catholic physician at risk of grave sin.”

The Canadian Catholic Bioethics Institute has urged people to read the draft policy and make their concerns known before the Feb. 20, 2015 deadline for responses.
“CPSO’s revised draft policy, ‘Professional Obligations and Human Rights,’ raises serious ethical concerns yet again about freedom of conscience particularly with respect to reproductive matters, abortion, and, depending on legislation, end-of-life care,” said the Institute’s executive director Moira McQueen in a news release, directing people to the policy at cpso.on.ca.

The League “will be filing another submission in advance of the deadline and we urge all Catholics to do the same,” said Elia.

If CPSO goes ahead with the policy despite objections, the League will advise Catholic physicians not to follow the guidelines, Elia said. Catholic physicians must follow the examples of other great Catholic moral objectors in history.

“It’s better to have legal problems than it is to be complicit in an inherently, intrinsically evil act such as abortion,” he said. “Your own soul and the promotion of a Catholic understanding of things is more important than these guidelines.”

The Project warned that if the Supreme Court of Canada legalizes euthanasia in the Carter case now under consideration, “the policy will require objecting physicians to lethally inject patients themselves if a delay would result in ‘harm’ or ‘suffering.’ ”

The CPSO policy review became a public issue in a series of media reports on some Ottawa physicians who have a policy of not prescribing birth control pills on both medical and religious grounds.

Elia also objected to lines 123-127 of the CPSO policy concerning the courts considering how much the policy interferes with sincerely held religious people.

“Catholic physicians do not look to the courts to tell us about the Catholic faith,” he said. “They look to Scripture, tradition and magisterial teachings, not the courts.”

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