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‘Frightening’: Life and family leaders react to Ontario College of Physicians’ draft policy

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Numerous life-and-family groups have slammed a draft policy from Ontario’s College of Physicians and Surgeons that threatens to force doctors into providing abortions and contraceptives in some circumstances, calling it “inimical to living in a free society” and “frightening.”

“We can say goodbye to a slew of good doctors in Ontario [if the policy passes],” Andrea Mrozek, executive director of Institute of Marriage and Family Canada, told LifeSiteNews. “If I were one, with a young family, I’d leave. Who wants to live under the threat of constant legal action for doing what you believe is good care?”

The College Council approved the draft policy last week. The policy would force doctors who are “unwilling to provide certain elements of care due to their moral or religious beliefs” — such as abortion — to refer the patient “in good faith” to another doctor who would provide the service.

If there is nobody to whom the patient can be referred, then the doctor “must provide care that is urgent or otherwise necessary to prevent imminent harm, suffering, and/or deterioration, even where that care conflicts with their religious or moral beliefs.”

“Although physicians have [freedom of conscience and religion] under the Charter, the Supreme Court of Canada has determined that no rights are absolute,” the draft policy states, adding that the “right to freedom of conscience and religion can be limited.”

The College’s former president, Marc Gabel, has stated that doctors who fail to comply will face disciplinary action.

“Once again freedom of conscience is being eliminated in Ontario,” Mary Ellen Douglas, national organizer for Campaign Life Coalition, told LifeSiteNews.

“It appears the only people who receive ‘freedom of choice’ are those who are in favor of killing the unborn child in the womb. Doctors who believe that life is sacred and do not want to either commit abortions or pass their patients on to someone who will, face disciplinary action from the College. No wonder the Hippocratic Oath is no longer embraced – ‘do no harm’ because now it would be the ‘hypocrite oath,’” she said.

Charles McVety, president of the Institute for Canadian Values as well as the Canada Family Action Coalition, called the draft policy another example of the “secular strong-arming the religious with no respect for freedom.”

McVety said the policy has no accommodation for a Christian doctor who is committed to respecting life and doing everything in his power to save lives, not take them.

“It shows a lack of civility where they will use force, coercion, and penalty [to enforce the policy], which is not a Canadian value – which is to respect and accommodate,” he said.

McVety said the policy is “reflective of the culture of death” which holds that “humanity is meaningless, and human life is an accident.”

“I see this as an attempt by the state to force Christian doctors to bow at the altar of the culture of death,” he said. “We are called by Christ at this Christmas time to follow him, not the fascists,” he added.

The draft policy comes as a surprise to the general public, who, during the College’s consultation process in the summer, overwhelmingly favored a doctor’s right to conscientious objection.

Dr. Moira McQueen, executive director of the Canadian Catholic Bioethics Institute, told LifeSiteNews that this is not the first attempt of the College to attack conscience rights.

“This is about the third time the College has sent out the same type of draft, and it's as if they are being driven by the Human Rights Commission to do so,” she told LifeSiteNews. “In fairness to the College, it has been somewhat reluctant to force the issue, and the people there need to be encouraged to uphold the existing practice of recognizing conscience rights. If they hear from enough people, they may be able to maintain the principle - if they don't...another long term principle will be eroded.”

Some say the proposed policy fails to attain a balance between the rights of the patient and those of the physician.

“Respect for the beliefs of others and the stress on the duty to accommodate urged by the draft document is a two way street,” Bruce Clemenger, president of the Evangelical Fellowship of Canada (EFC), told LifeSiteNews. “The insistence that a physician is obliged to perform procedures under certain circumstances is to compel someone to do that which they believe is morally wrong. This is inimical to living in a free society.”

Clemenger said that having a doctor with a moral objection to a procedure refer a patient to a different doctor is not a moral solution.

“If conducting a procedure would violate a doctor’s conscience or beliefs, then so would facilitating that procedure through a referral,” he said. “This draft policy would require a doctor to provide that referral, which is a kind of participation in the procedure. In addition to a moral objection, doctors may also have a scientific and clinic basis for refusing to perform the procedure. Either way, no one should be compelled to violate their conscience or deeply held religious beliefs.”

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Gwen Landolt, national vice-president of REAL Women of Canada, agrees with the EFC’s assessment of the draft policy, saying that it is “all about the patient and not taking into account any concern of the physician.”

Landolt said the proposed policy turns the physician into an “empty vessel,” a “tool to promote the patient’s agenda, rather than the physician being responsible for the best care of the patient.”

“It’s a frightening position, because you want a physician who’s got morals and principles,” she said. 

Mrozek said the policy will make doctors with moral beliefs easy targets for an “angry patient with an axe to grind.”

“This started when a group of doctors were targeted for not prescribing the birth control pill, a pill which is listed by the World Health Organization as being carcinogenic, and which has been linked to numerous health side effects for women. Are we now to believe that providing the Pill is urgent and necessary? What about doctors who disagree about any number of good treatments, not on religious principle but simply because the developing body of knowledge is inconclusive?”

“No one, not doctors, not lawyers, not the gas station attendant should ever be compelled to do anything that transgresses their conscience,” she said.

The Council will continue to accept public input about the draft policy until February 20, 2015. Information about providing feedback on the policy can be found here.

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