Why we’re challenging the College of Physicians and Surgeons of Ontario (CPSO)
Current CPSO policies (see below) require physicians to refer patients for controversial procedures, like assisted suicide and abortion, even though there are ways for patients to access the procedures.
The College can discipline physicians who are unable to refer for reasons of conscience, ethics, or religious belief because they cannot participate in taking a human life.
For these reasons, we joined two other physician organizations and five brave physicians in challenging the CPSO in two separate legal proceedings. The first proceeding was commenced in 2015. The second followed shortly after.
There are other ways to give patients this option without placing health care practitioners in an impossible dilemma. Doctors and other health professionals who have dedicated their lives to healing people cannot be forced to participate in ending the same patient’s life. For many caregivers in our society, medical assistance in dying (MAiD) is a gruesome and highly disturbing process. To be forced to be part of it is inhumane. No other jurisdiction in the world that has legalized euthanasia has required referral.
For many doctors and nurses this is a very serious matter. Some have already retired early, others have moved to another province and some are talking about retraining or altering their practice.
Through these legal proceedings, we have the opportunity to establish legal precedent to not only protect the rights of physicians in Ontario, but physicians across the country and even influence jurisdictions throughout the world. These legal proceedings are our last best hope.
The two policies which require “effective referral” are the following:
- Policy Statement #2-15 Professional Obligations and Human Rights
- Policy Statement #4-16 Medical Assistance in Dying
On January 31, 2018, the Ontario Divisional Court released its decision in the matter. You may download the decision here.
In short, the court found the religious freedom rights of Ontario doctors are significantly violated by the CPSO’s policies, but that those violations can be justified to ensure patient access to healthcare. The “salutary effects” of patient access outweigh the “deleterious effects” which are the affirmed harms experienced by our doctors, who feel that they cannot participate in these procedures, via referral or otherwise.
We are appealing this decision.