REGINA, Saskatchewan, February 17, 2015 (LifeSiteNews.com) – Christian doctors across Canada are vowing to challenge the constitutionality of the requirement now being considered by the Saskatchewan medical profession that all its members be required to perform abortions or assist at suicides—or refer patients to other doctors who will.
“This is moral genocide,” Saskatoon emergency room doctor Philip Fitzpatrick says of the policy, already approved in principle without consultation with doctors or the public by the Saskatchewan College of Physicians and Surgeons.
“There’s no medical reason for these clauses overriding our consciences,” he continued. “The people who want euthanasia and abortion on demand just don’t like the fact somebody disagrees. They are trying to chase us out of the profession.”
“We have to sue the College if it approves this policy,” Larry Worthen, executive director of the Christian Dental and Medical Association of Canada, told LifeSiteNews. “Half our members will have to quit if it were enforced. It goes against their very reason for being in medicine.”
Worthen, who organized a conference call with 40 doctors across Canada on the issue last week, said doctors in palliative care are especially concerned. “They can foresee a situation where a patient in their care would seek to end his life and the family in an agitated state are pushing the doctor to comply.” Given that “well being” is “such a broad and subjective” term, said Worthen, palliative care doctors would be required by the policy to comply or face disciplinary action or suspension of their licences. He said he knew of 70 Saskatchewan doctors who objected to the policy.
The College’s spokesperson, Bryan Salte, is deflecting criticism by saying that under the College’s existing ethical code, “if a situation arises in which a patient’s health would be jeopardized by a delay in treatment, a physician is ethically required to provide that treatment. In the hypothetical situation of an emergency need to provide an abortion to save a patient’s life, where it is impossible to find another person to perform the abortion, there is already an ethical requirement, independent of the draft policy document, for a physician to act to save the mother’s life.”
Fitzpatrick says such instances are not the problem for doctors opposed to abortion. As a Catholic, he says, he knows the Church’s teaching is that an operation to save the life of the mother, which incidentally results in a miscarriage, is allowable. The problem is with non-emergencies where delaying the abortion held no medical risk at all but might emotionally distress the patient. Could not distress threaten “well-being” broadly defined, obliging a sole practitioner in a small town to deliver the desired service, be it an abortion or an assisted suicide, herself?
Salte has also claimed, on the “John Gormley Live” talk radio show, that physicians in Saskatchewan already have an obligation to refer for procedures that they themselves cannot or will not provide.
In fact, the existing policy requires a doctor to either refer such patients to an appropriate practitioner, or inform them of where they can get the information they need, i.e., the Yellow Pages or the Internet. It does not require doctors to provide patients with referrals.
CMDS’s Worthen is sure that the new policy does something new—it requires doctors to co-operate with actions Christians consider immoral—and that violates the Charter of Rights and Freedoms. He told LifeSiteNews, “The Charter protects individuals from the state and the College of Physicians and Surgeons is an arm of the state.”
What is more, said Worthen, last week’s landmark Supreme Court decision in the Carter case permitting assisted suicide contained specific directions from the judges ordering lawmakers to protect the freedom of consciences of doctors unwilling to assist suicides. The Christian Medical and Dental Association’s website provides an email link to the Saskatchewan College for those who wish to complain and a video of testimonies from protesting doctors.
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Salte admits that the draft policy is not based upon the Charter but does not address the issue of whether it violates the Charter. The Charter declares freedom of conscience to be one of a handful of fundamental freedoms upon which the rest of the Charter depends. The draft policy, however, asserts a human right to receive every legal medical service provided by the health care system.
Counters Worthen: “That does not mean they have a right to receive every service from every doctor.” Many doctors limit their range of services.
Salte also denied that the contentious draft policy “was taken” from a model policy provided by a group based at Western and Dalhousie Universities ironically called the “Conscience Project,” whose apparent goal is eliminate conscience as a factor in the delivery of contraception, abortion, and euthanasia. Salte did acknowledge the Conscience Project’s model as a “significant source.”
Initially, Saskatchewan’s three-month consultation, involving only doctors, stood in stark contrast to the Ontario College of Physicians and Surgeons’ process, which lasted over twice as long and not only invited public response but posted responses on the website. Midway through last week, however, the College decided to consult the public formally and posted an email link especially for feedback.
Prior to this, the Saskatchewan draft policy could be found on the Saskatchewan College’s website only by using the site’s search function, but when it appeared, it was described not as a draft replacement for the existing policy, but as the policy itself.
Dr. Fitzpatrick told LifeSiteNews, “I get the impression they are trying to sneak something through. There was no fanfare. The consultation was just one email. We get a lot of emails every week from the College. There was no warning in advance. It’s very different from Ontario’s consultation.”