Alberta College of Physicians and Surgeons challenged to think about conscience rights

News Releases

Canadian Physicians for Life

Canadian Physicians for Life calls on the College of Physicians and Surgeons of Alberta to verify the alleged charges of women being bullied by pro-life physicians.

The tone of the statement from College Councillor Dr. Eugene Kretzul is patronizing and dismissive of the conscience rights of doctors. The “nudge-nudge, wink-wink” suggestion that morally troublesome issues need only be referred to a colleague is oblivious to the principled objections of pro-life physicians.  Increasingly exotic reproductive technologies may eventually offend even the most laissez-faire physicians. There may come a day where no physician feels free from coercion to violate his or her conscience.

The “pro-choice” Alberta College apparently lacks tolerance for physicians’ choice to be pro-life. The Code of Ethics of the Canadian Medical Association requires physicians to “inform a patient when their personal morality would influence the recommendation or practice of any medical procedure that the patient needs or wants.” The Alberta College suggests pro-life doctors go further: usher abortion requesters into the abortion-on-demand system or face the charge of being unprofessional.

In Alberta, as elsewhere, it is often easier for women to obtain an abortion than support and counseling services. For a woman to make a truly “informed decision” she must be presented with the embryology of her   unborn child so that she will know that she is aborting a human being, not just a clump of cells or a piece of her own tissues. She deserves more than the wave-through suggested by the College’s statement.

A number of studies report a close correlation between abortion, especially of a first pregnancy, and breast cancer. Are Alberta physicians telling abortion seekers of this threat to their health? Are women being informed of the risk of post-abortion emotional trauma? Are patients being warned that some physicians’ ardent pro-abortion beliefs bias the “counselling” process?

And if abortion seekers have complained of being bullied, has the College conducted diligent enquiries into such serious accusations? What was the outcome? Or is polemical hearsay the College’s new standard of evidence when the target is pro-life doctors?

In plain English, independent medical professionals have no duty to refer anyone to anyone when the referral would violate the conscience and the medical good judgement of the professional. This elementary conscience  protection impartially shields doctors who possess any convictions on any topic at all. Whether the request be for genital mutilation, the amputation of a healthy limb, or an abortion, the true professional will never be coerced into offending his or her basic principles. Canadian Physicians for Life calls on the Alberta College to retract and clarify its venture into professional conscience ethics.

Will Johnston, M.D.

Secretary-Treasurer

For further information
Canadian Physicians for Life Administration
Phone (604) 794-3772; Fax (604) 794-3960
Email: info@physiciansforlife.ca

Some legal and ethical issues in assisted reproductive technology

Int J Gynaecol Obstet. 66 (1999) 55-61

BM Dickens, RJ Cook

Abstract:

The potential and actual applications of reproductive technologies have been reviewed by many governmental committees, and laws have been enacted in several countries to accommodate, limit and regulate their use. Regulatory systems have nevertheless left some legal and ethical issues unresolved, and have caused other issues to arise. Issues that regulatory systems leave unresolved, or that systems have created, include disposal of embryos that remain after patients’ treatments are concluded, and multiple implantation and pregnancy. This may result in risks to maternal, embryonic and neonatal life and health, and the contentious relief that may be achieved by selective reduction of multiple pregnancies. A further concern arises when clinics must or choose to publicize their success rates, and they compete for favorable statistics  by questionable patient selection criteria and treatment priorities. [Full Text]

Freedom of conscience, professional responsibility, and access to abortion

J Law Med Ethics 1994 Fall;22(3):280-5PMID: 7749485

Rebecca S. Dresser

Acess to abortion is becoming increasingly restricted for many women in the United States.  Besides the longstanding financial barriers facing low-income women in most states, a newer source of scar­ city has emerged. The relatively small  number of physicians willing to perform the procedure is compromising the ability of women in  certain parts of the country to obtain an abortion. Do physicians have a duty to respond to this situation? Do they have a professional responsibility  to ensure that abortions are reasonably available to the women who want to terminate their  pregnancies? Or, is abortion so morally and socially controversial as to remove any professional  obligation to provide reasonable access? [Full Text]