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Ontario Medical Association Wades into Battle over Doctor’s Rights of Conscience

"We believe that it should never be professional misconduct for an Ontarian physician to act in accordance with his or her religious or moral beliefs."
Mon Sep 15, 2008 - 12:15 pm EST

By Thaddeus M. Baklinski

September 15, 2008 (LifeSiteNews.com) - The Ontario Medical Association has issued a statement urging the College of Physicians and Surgeons of Ontario (CPSO) to abandon its draft policy that would prohibit medical professionals from following their consciences when making decisions in their medical practice.

"It is the OMA’s position that physicians maintain a right to exercise their own moral judgment and freedom of choice in making decisions regarding medical care and that the CPSO not insert itself into the interpretation of human rights statutes," the OMA’s statement reads.

The CPSO’s controversial draft policy document (available here: http://www.cpso.on.ca/Policies/consultation/HumanRightsDRAFT_08.pdf) states that "a physician who refuses to provide a service or refuses to accept a patient on the basis of a prohibited ground such as sex or sexual orientation may be acting contrary to the (Human Rights) Code, even if the refusal is based on the physician’s moral or religious belief."

The OMA, however, argues that the policy, "does not adequately inform physicians that their right to freedom of religion is protected under the Charter of Rights and Freedoms," and that the "CPSO should refer physicians to the Ontario Human Rights Code when physicians are faced with a moral or religious conflict in the care of a patient," and not publish its own policy, which "has the potential to misstate the law in this area."

The OMA criticizes the CPSO’s Professional Misconduct clause, observing that "a physician could be disciplined for withholding information about the existence of a procedure or treatment because providing that procedure or giving advice about it conflicts with their religious or moral beliefs."

The OMA asserts, "We believe that the vast majority of Ontarian physicians will provide patients with appropriate advice without a CPSO policy in this regard."

"We believe that it should never be professional misconduct for an Ontarian physician to act in accordance with his or her religious or moral beliefs."
 
  Dr. Preston Zuliani, president of the CPSO, said that the draft policy, which will be voted on this week, has been revised to address the concerns of the OMA, but would not reveal what those changes were, according to a National Post report. (http://www.nationalpost.com/todays_paper/story.html?id=787982)

"The OMA would take the position that the doctor has the right to withhold information about legitimate medical treatments that are available if the doctor disagrees with them," Dr. Zuliani said in the National Post report. "We do not expect a physician to impose their religious beliefs on their patients. Let the patient make their own decision without the doctor having to make referral, but not to withhold any important information."

Last week Archbishop Terrence Prendergast of Ottawa, Rabbi Dr. Reuven P. Bulka and Physicians for Life all issued statements condemning the proposed policy.

"We are deeply disturbed by the draft policy of the College of Physicians and Surgeons of Ontario," said Archbishop Prendergast and Rabbi Bulka in a joint statement. "Many doctors have expressed a reasonable fear that if this policy is passed, they might be disciplined, and even lose their licenses, for obeying their conscience. They would no longer be free to refuse to perform or refer for certain medical acts that are contrary to their firmly held beliefs."

The OMA statement is available here: http://www.oma.org/health/rights.asp

Read related LifeSiteNews.com coverage of this issue:

Archbishop, Rabbi, Physician Group Condemn Efforts to Curb Ontario Physician Conscience Rights
http://www.lifesitenews.com/ldn/2008/sep/08091211.html

Ontario Human Rights Commission and College of Physicians Collude to Remove Doctors’ Conscience Protections
http://www.lifesitenews.com/ldn/2008/sep/08090307.html

Ontario Plan: Professional Misconduct when Doctors Fail to Refer for Abortion
http://www.lifesitenews.com/ldn/2008/aug/08081508.html


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