Ontario’s College of Physicians and Surgeons has tentatively approved a policy forcing doctors in some circumstances to provide abortions, contraceptives, and vasectomies.
If doctors fail to comply with the proposed regulations, they could face disciplinary action, Marc Gabel, a former president of the college, told the Globe and Mail.
The College Council has approved the draft policy for “external consultation,” and it will continue to accept public input until February 20, 2015.
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 draft policy was released despite the College’s consultation process in the summer, the results of which overwhelmingly favored a doctor’s right to conscientious objection.
Sean Murphy from the Protection of Conscience Project called the draft policy “dangerous” and “an affront to the best traditions of liberal democracy.”
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“Prominent academics and activists want to force objecting physicians to provide or refer for abortion and contraception. They and others have led increasingly strident campaigns to suppress freedom of conscience among physicians to achieve that goal. The College’s draft policy clearly reflects their influence,” he said in a press release.
Murphy called the policy a “dress rehearsal” on forcing doctors to comply with euthanasia and assisted suicide laws if it became legal for a doctor to kill a patient.
“It is not a coincidence that activists who would force objecting physicians to facilitate abortion and contraception also intend to force objectors to refer for euthanasia,” he said.
Murphy called it “incoherent and contrary to sound public policy” to force doctors to perform “what one believes to be wrong in a professional code of ethics.”
Feedback information on the policy can be found here.