Progressive Conservative health critic Jeff Yurek has put forward two versions of an amendment that would protect doctors and nurses who will not refer for medically assisted in dying. Photo by Michael Swan

Amendments to protect conscience rights on the table

  • April 10, 2017

Amendments to a government bill have been forward that would protect Ontario’s doctors and nurses who, for reasons of conscience, cannot refer for medical assistance in dying (MAID).

Conscience rights for doctors are coming up for a vote at Queen’s Park as amendments to Bill-84 which smooths the way for voluntary euthanasia makes its way through committee towards its final reading in the legislature.

Progressive Conservative health critic Jeff Yurek has put forward two versions of an amendment that would protect doctors and nurses who will not refer for MAID. The Yurek amendments protect medical professionals both from civil liability and from disciplinary action by the College of Physicians and Surgeons of Ontario.

“I’m super excited,” said Catholic family doctor Ramona Coelho. “Mr. Yurek was really trying to hear us.”

Coelho, who was one of a stream of doctors, nurses and a naturopath who went to the committee to plead for conscience rights in hearings over the last three weeks, said she was happy to see wording that all participation in MAID will be voluntary under the amended bill.

However, Christian Medical and Dental Society executive director Deacon Larry Worthen believes the fight is far from over.

“We’re very disappointed in the government. They are not listening to the concerns expressed by 22,000 people who have written in,” Worthen told The Catholic Register, referring to the Canadians for Conscience campaign that was launched in February. “We have indications that they’re essentially going to whip the vote. They’ve clearly decided that they are not going to do anything to protect conscience.”

Worthen believes the New Democratic Party members of the committee have given conscience concerns a sympathetic hearing and he will be interested to see whether the NDP votes with the Conservatives on conscience rights.

The committee vote happens Tuesday, April 11.

A government amendment to its own bill would entrench a care co-ordination service, which could allow patients, their families and friends to initiate the process of assessments for doctor-assisted suicide without a physician referral. Similar systems already exist in several provinces that do not demand an “effective referral” from objecting doctors.

Having the care co-ordination service laid out in Bill 84 is an important step forward, Worthen said.

“One could imagine that a future government might eliminate the care co-ordination service (if it’s not mandated by law),” said Worthen.

However the self-referral system by itself won’t protect doctors from possible suspension of their licence, said Worthen.

The Yurek amendments also clarify that non-referring doctors must still provide complete and accurate information about MAID and how to access it, must transfer patient records for the purposes of MAID assessments and must facilitate a complete transfer of care when requested.

“So, it provides for access (to MAID) without negatively affecting conscience rights,” said Worthen. “It’s important that people realize that we’re not trying to block patients from accessing this. What we’re trying to do is not be morally implicated in their decision.”

Comments (0)

There are no comments posted here yet

Leave your comments

  1. Posting comment as a guest. Sign up or login to your account.
Attachments (0 / 3)
Share Your Location
Type the text presented in the image below

Support The Catholic Register

Unlike many other news websites, The Catholic Register has never charged readers for access to the news and information on our site. We want to keep our award-winning journalism as widely available as possible. But we need your help.

For more than 125 years, The Register has been a trusted source of faith based journalism. By making even a small donation you help ensure our future as an important voice in the Catholic Church. If you support the mission of Catholic journalism, please donate today. Thank you.