Conscience Project critiques Ontario Physicians College euthanasia/assisted suicide policy

Referral, urgent situations, death certificates, criminal law

News Release

For immediate release

Protection of Conscience Project

Conscience Project critiques Ontario Physicians College euthanasia/assisted suicide policy

Powell River, BC. (28 April, 2021) The 2019 decision of the Ontario Court of Appeal supporting the College of Physicians and Surgeons of Ontario was not the last word on the subject of physician freedom of conscience.

That message was delivered to the College by the Protection of Conscience Project in a submission responding to the College’s request for public feedback on its policy, Medical Assistance in Dying (MAiD). The submission focuses primarily on the College demand that physicians unwilling to provide euthanasia or assisted suicide (EAS) for reasons of conscience provide an “effective referral”: that is, connect the patient directly with someone willing to provide a lethal injection or assist with suicide.

The submission on MAiD addresses three points unique to euthanasia and assisted suicide.

Conflicts in urgent situations: If a patient is approved for EAS at some future date, a sudden deterioration of the patient’s condition may cause the patient to ask for immediate relief by EAS. In the absence of an EAS practitioner, other practitioners may be willing to alleviate the patient’s distress by palliative interventions, but not to provide EAS. The Project suggests how this conflict can be avoided.

Falsifying death certificates: Falsification of death certificates is contrary to accepted international standards and can be considered deceptive, unethical or professionally ill-advised. The Project suggests how EAS practitioners unwilling to falsify death certificates can be accommodated by the College and Office of the Chief Coroner even if current government policy does not change.

Criminal law limits on College policy: The Project’s position is that the College cannot proceed against practitioners who, having the opinion that a patient is not eligible for EAS, refuse to do anything that would entail criminal responsibility for homicide/assisted suicide, including “effective referral.” Further, to advise or attempt to coerce them to present EAS as treatment options or to participate by effective referral would seem to be a criminal offence. Finally, since counselling suicide remains a criminal offence, it appears that practitioners cannot be compelled to present assisted suicide or MaiD as treatment options unless a patient has expressed an interest in the services.

The College’s clarification that it does not require objecting practitioners to personally kill their patients is welcome. However, the Project’s position is that this ought to be the norm in a democratic society, not a “concession”or an element in the “accommodation” of freedom of conscience.

While the submission includes specific policy recommendations within the existing MAiD policy framework, it recommends that the College adopt a single protection of conscience policy in line with “the basic theory” of the Canadian Charter of Rights affirmed by the Supreme Court of Canada and consistent with rational moral pluralism. Such a generally applicable policy is included in the simultaneous Project submission to the College on Professional Obligations and Human Rights.

Public consultations on Professional Obligations and Human Rights [Consultation Page] and Medical Assistance in Dying [Consultation Page] are open until 14 May, 2021.

Contact: Sean Murphy,
Administrator, Protection of Conscience Project
protection@consciencelaws.org

Ontario College of Physicians policy challenged

Forcing physicians out of Covid fight not in public interest

News Release

For immediate release

Protection of Conscience Project

Ontario College of Physicians policy challenged

Powell River, B.C. (28 April, 2021) The 2019 decision of the Ontario Court of Appeal supporting the College of Physicians and Surgeons of Ontario was not the last word on the subject of physician freedom of conscience.

That message was delivered to the College by the Protection of Conscience Project in a submission responding to the College’s request for public feedback on its policy, Professional Obligations and Human Rights (POHR).

The submission includes a cautionary note about the potential implications of human rights law for practitioners providing euthanasia and assisted suicide. However, the primary focus is on the College demand that physicians unwilling to provide a service or procedure for reasons of conscience provide an “effective referral”: that is, connect the patient directly with someone willing to do what they consider immoral/unethical.

Practitioners who object to providing a service typically provide information and work cooperatively with patients and others in relation to patient access to services. While willing to respectfully cooperate, they are unwilling to collaborate by doing something that makes them a party to what they consider wrongful and/or harmful. The distinctions between providing information vs. providing a service and between cooperation vs. collaboration enable an approach that accommodates both patients and practitioners, argues the Project.

However, the College is clearly confused about such critical distinctions. Citing College policy and reasoning, the submission states, “the College’s assertion that effective referral for euthanasia/assisted suicide does not ‘signal’ endorsement or support for the procedures [Advice:MAiD] is either disingenuous or the product of badly muddled wishful thinking.”

“The College does not even correctly apply its own definition of effective referral in its companion policy document,” observes Sean Murphy, Administrator of the Project.

According to the College, physicians unwilling to comply with its effective referral policy should restrict their practices to specialties like hair restoration.[1] This would force all objecting physicians out of general practice.

“To put it in a currently relevant perspective,” says Murphy, “the College would have them terminate all Covid 19 pandemic activities and take up podiatry or aviation medicine. This is hardly consistent with ensuring access to health care or protecting the public interest.”

The Project recommends that the College adopt a single protection of conscience policy in line with “the basic theory” of the Canadian Charter of Rights affirmed by the Supreme Court of Canada and consistent with rational moral pluralism. The submission includes a such general policy, drawing on policy documents from the Canadian Medical Association, Canadian Nurses’ Association, Catholic Health Association of Canada and the Canadian Medical Protective Association.

The Protection of Conscience Project has also made a submission about College’s policy on euthanasia and assisted suicide, Medical Assistance in Dying. Public consultations on Professional Obligations and Human Rights [Consultation Page] and Medical Assistance in Dying [Consultation Page] are open until 14 May, 2021.

Notes

  1. Christian Medical and Dental Society of Canada v. College of Physicians and Surgeons of Ontario, 2019 ONCA 393 (CanLII) at para 184.

Contact: Sean Murphy,
Administrator, Protection of Conscience Project
protection@consciencelaws.org

Assisted Suicide and Euthanasia: pharmacists must also have the right to conscientious objection

Life Institute Blog
Reproduced with permission

Bernadette Flood

Assisted Suicide and Euthanasia: pharmacists must also have the right to conscientious objection

In jurisdictions where euthanasia and/or assisted suicide is legal, experience shows there are profound implications for pharmacy practice.1 Little attention in the current euthanasia debate has been paid to the role of Irish pharmacists. Pharmacists are employed  in the Irish healthcare system in a variety of locations: hospital, long term care, care of vulnerable populations, community, academia/research, education, industry, palliative care/hospice care, legislation, policy, drug information, HIQA etc. All may be challenged professionally and personally if euthanasia and assisted suicide are introduced. . . . continue reading

How Surrogacy Arrangements Fail Children

Public Discourse

Seow Hon Tan

Surrogacy ad
Ad for surrogate mothers, Burbank, California, USA. Cory Doctorow, Flickr

Surrogacy arrangements are in the spotlight again. Recently, Chinese actress Zheng Shuang was accused by her former partner of abandoning two babies conceived through surrogacy in the United States. Apparently, she wanted the surrogates to undergo abortion when she broke up with him. But abortion was not feasible, as the surrogates were in the third trimester of pregnancy.

Surrogacy supporters tend to emphasize how much children are desired and valued by commissioning parents. . .

It is surprising that the best interests of the child have been so neglected in debates over the ethics of surrogacy. After all, adoption and custody decisions focus on the best interests of the child. The truth is, surrogacy undermines the human flourishing of surrogates and children. In this essay, I will lay out a few reasons why such separation is not in the best interests of the child, focusing particularly on what we can learn from relevant scientific data. These reasons suggest that lawmakers should not legalize surrogacy. . . [Full text]

The Dark Side of CRISPR

Its potential ability to “fix” people at the genetic level is a threat to those who are judged by society to be biologically inferior

Scientific American

Sandy Sufian, Rosemarie Garland-Thomson

Americans have celebrated the fact that the Biden administration is embracing science and returning the country to evidence-based policymaking. We agree that science should guide policy—except in cases where it wouldn’t assist people to live their lives but would, instead, exclude them.

The CRISPR-Cas9 gene-editing technology, for which biochemists Jennifer Doudna and Emmanuelle Charpentier won the Nobel Prize in Chemistry, has the potential to do just that. So do other forms of scientific technologies. We should therefore always be aware of the ethical choices these technologies can pose. . . continue reading