Re: Professional Obligations and Human Rights
I am generally able to agree with the draft policy Physicians and the Ontario Human Rights Code. Physicians should not discriminate against their patients nor should physicians impose their religious beliefs on a patient. Patients should be adequately informed of their options for care. The majority of the policy outlines this nicely.
Despite the first part of the policy reading well, I do not believe this is a policy that should be adopted. Lines 156-168 are very concerning. All Canadians, under The Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedoms, have the right to live according to their religious and moral beliefs. Stating that a physician must refer a patient for a service that goes against his or her conscience disqualifies that right. It reduces his/her personal sense of integrity and creates internal conflict that may force very compassionate and effective physicians out of practice. It would not affect the right of the patient to receive care since a procedure such as abortion can be self-referred and, if a patient disagrees with a physician’s perspective, they are able to obtain a second opinion.
Presently, the Supreme Court of Canada is considering a case that may lead to the legalization of euthanasia in Canada. Should this happen, the draft policy could obligate physicians, who strongly feel that killing is wrong, to participate in an act of killing, i.e. euthanasia or physician assisted suicide. This is very concerning.
This past spring and summer the College conducted an online survey with the question “Do you think a physician should be allowed to refuse to provide a patient with a treatment or procedure because it conflicts with the physician’s religious or moral beliefs?”. Yes votes amounted to 25,230 or 77% of the total count. This is a large majority in favour of physicians being able to practice according to their consciences. This is a very large sample of the population (32,912) that voted. I am amazed, then, that the College should disregard this viewpoint as lines 156-168 of the draft policy indicate.
I sincerely hope that you will reconsider adoption of this policy. Revision of lines 156-168 to omit the obligation to refer for or, in certain cases, perform procedures that go against their moral or religious beliefs should be made. Anything less than that would go against The Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedoms, against the popular vote in Ontario and certainly against the well-being of many Ontario doctors.