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Steve Weatherbe

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How a handful of Canadian lawyers launched a national campaign against doctors’ conscience rights: internal memos

Steve Weatherbe

March 11, 2015 (LifeSiteNews.com) – Only a few weeks after Ontario’s College of Physicians and Surgeons voted to compel the province’s doctors to refer and even perform operations they consider immoral, Saskatchewan’s College is scheduled to follow suit. But all Canada’s provincial governing bodies have been urged to get on the bandwagon as part of a national campaign from an obscure, federally-funded coterie of pro-abortion, pro-euthanasia academics.

According to Sean Murphy, director of the British Columbia-based Protection of Conscience Project, the pro-abortion Conscience Research Group is the prime mover behind efforts by the leadership of the Ontario and Saskatchewan medical professions to force their members to do abortions, assist at suicides, and euthanize their patients upon request.

“Based on the correspondence I’ve seen,” Murphy told LifeSiteNews, “there does appear to be a movement to impose this on all doctors in Canada.”

The Conscience Research Group comprises Carolyn McLeod, who is an associate philosophy professor at the University of Western Ontario; Françoise Baylis, a philosophy and bioethics professor at Dalhousie University, Jocelyn Downie, a law professor also at Dalhousie; Michael Hickson, an assistant philosophy professor at Trent University; and Daniel Weinstock, a law professor at McGill University. Downie, Baylis, and Weinstock are also leading advocates of euthanasia, according to Alex Schadenberg of the Euthanasia Prevention Coalition.

Their “movement” started in 2013, according to a memo provided Murphy by the Saskatchewan College of Physicians and Surgeons, with a meeting between CRG members and representatives from the colleges of physicians in Saskatchewan, Nova Scotia, Ontario, and Quebec. The attendees include the Saskatchewan college’s associate registrar Bryan Salte, Nova Scotian registrar Dr. Gus Grant, Andréa Foti of the Policy Department of the College of Physicians and Surgeons of Ontario, and an unnamed representative of the Collège des Médecins du Québec.

The memo, reports Murphy, shows that “they agreed upon a text virtually identical to the CRG model.”

The CRG model not only requires doctors with conscientious objections against abortions, contraceptives, assisted suicides, or euthanasia (if and when this is legalized) to refer to doctors they know will provide the required service. It also requires them to perform the service, if to do otherwise would “harm” the patient.

The Ontario college has now approved policies closely based on the CRG model, while the Saskatchewan regulator will vote later this month whether to approve another virtual duplicate.

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A second memo that Murphy obtained from the Saskatchewan college indicates that Salte contacted all the provincial colleges and that the colleges in British Columbia, Alberta, and Manitoba at least agreed to consider the CRG model.  Salte urged his peers in other provinces to produce similarly restrictive policies in order to better weather the inevitable controversy. “Any College that is an outlier, either because it has adopted a different position than other Colleges, or because it has not developed a policy, will potentially be placed in a difficult position,” he warned.

Murphy claims that there is a pattern of concealment if not deception evident in the promotion of the CRG model to the various colleges. Salte, for example, has claimed he belongs to a working group that received a federal grant to look into conscience rights restrictions for all the colleges. In fact it was the CRG that got the grant. The Ontario college committee that was tasked with coming up with policy revisions misrepresented policies in other jurisdictions, notably Australia’s, to look like doctors there were in line with the proposed changes when they were actually opposed.

Alberta’s college may be next, warns Murphy. Just before the Ontario college ended consultations, its Alberta counterpart sent a letter dated February 19, 2015, stating, “We strongly support this document and provide suggestions for succinctness and clarity,” followed by a page of minor edits. It is unsigned, leaving a mystery over whether the Alberta college’s governing council has approved the letter, and, indeed, wants to change its own policy to fall into line with Ontario’s.

Alberta’s policy, passed in 2008, requires that if a doctor has a moral objection to providing certain procedures, then  “that physician must ensure that the patient who seeks such advice or medical care is offered timely access to another physician or resource that will provide accurate information about all available medical options.” That falls short of referrals to willing practitioners, and far short of performing procedures to prevent so-called harm.

Murphy told LifeSiteNews, “This is a dangerous and extraordinarily authoritarian policy, completely at odds with liberal democratic aspirations and our national traditions. … The CRG’s policy fails to recognize that the practice of medicine is a moral enterprise, that morality is a human enterprise, and that physicians, no less than patients, are moral agents.”

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