Protesters say Alberta bill would make it harder to access some medical services

National Post

The Canadian Press

EDMONTON — Opponents of a private member’s bill that calls for more protection for health workers who invoke conscience rights gathered at the Alberta legislature Saturday, arguing the bill would limit access to medical services such as abortions or assisted dying.

Speakers with groups including Friends of Medicare, the Alberta Abortion Access Network and Dying With Dignity told the crowd that people in small communities already have a hard time getting access and advice on some issues. . .[Full text]

UCP MLA denies conscience rights bill limits health care access

Backbench MLA faces continued questions about potential implications of Bill 207

CBC News

Michelle Bellefontaine

The Alberta UCP MLA behind a controversial bill on conscience rights for health care providers says the bill isn’t intended to cut access to services like abortion and medical assistance in dying as critics have charged.

“I feel there is some misinformation about what the bill is trying to do and what it does do,” Peace River MLA Dan Williams told reporters Friday.   

“I want to be absolutely clear. This bill in no way categorically limits access to any services. That was not my intent, that is not what the bill does.” . . . [Full text]

Ban on assisted dying at St. Martha’s hospital should end, says law prof

Religious hospital in Antigonish, N.S., has agreement with province allowing it to forego MAID provision

CBC News

Frances Willick

Nova Scotia’s only Catholic hospital is at risk of being found in violation of the Charter of Rights and Freedoms and human rights legislation by refusing to provide medical assistance in dying, a Halifax law professor says.

St. Martha’s Regional Hospital in Antigonish, N.S., is a publicly funded health-care facility. But due to its religious ties, staff are not permitted to provide MAID. . . [Full text]

Court decision on assisted suicide referrals opens door for other challenges

The Catholic Register

Michael Swan

While doctors who lost their right to practise medicine according to their conscience contemplate a legal appeal, a prominent pro-euthanasia organization suspects faith-based hospitals, nursing homes and hospices may be next to face demands to accommodate euthanasia and assisted suicide.

Dying With Dignity, Canada believes an Ontario Divisional Court decision that compels doctors to refer for euthanasia and assisted suicide may become a springboard to court challenges aimed at the conscience rights of institutions which refuse to assist in the death of patients.

“It’s really interesting. I think that the question is going to be debated in the coming days and weeks, if not months, by lawyers,” Dying with Dignity CEO Shanaaz Gokool told The Catholic Register.

In a unanimous Jan. 31 decision, a panel of three judges agreed that the religion rights of doctors under the Charter are violated by a policy which demands a formal referral for assisted suicide and other procedures. But the judges nonetheless ruled against the doctors because, they said, there is a greater public interest in ensuring “equitable access to such medical services as are legally available.” . . . [Full Text]

Ontario court rules doctors who oppose assisted death must refer patients

The Globe and Mail

Sean Fine

In the first Canadian test of conscience rights for doctors who oppose assisted death, an Ontario court has upheld regulations requiring the objectors to refer their patients to physicians willing to perform the procedure.

Groups representing 4,700 Christian doctors had challenged Ontario’s regulations requiring the referrals, saying that making such a referral was morally equivalent to participating in an assisted death.

But Ontario’s Divisional Court said the referral rule was a reasonable limit on doctors’ freedom of religion because it protects vulnerable patients from harm. And those patients, it said, have a constitutional right to equitable access to publicly funded health care.

Without the policy of “effective referral,” equitable access would be “compromised or sacrificed, in a variety of circumstances, more often than not involving vulnerable members of our society at the time of requesting services,” Justice Herman Wilton-Siegel wrote in the 3-0 ruling on Wednesday. . . [Full text]