The Ontario College Of Physicians and Surgeons has advised its members that Freedom of Religion is not absolute and they should take heed of the Ontario Human Rights code when deciding upon whether they will refuse service to potential patients on account of, for example, their sexual orientation. They also note that:
Physicians should be aware that decisions to restrict medical services offered, to accept individuals as patients or to end physician-patient relationships that are based on moral or religious belief may contravene the Code, and/or constitute professional misconduct.
Common sense, right? The needs of the patience trump the doctor's moral quibbles. You wouldn't want someone working in the system who, while they could not in good conscience perform an abortion, refused also to refer a woman to a doctor that would perform such a service (which is the kind of thing we'e talking about here).
Not according to Saskatoon Tory MP Maurice Vellacott. He wants all health-care workers to be able to pick and choose those they treat.
Maurice Vellacott, MP
August 15, 2008
College of Physicians and Surgeons of Ontario
80 College Street
Dear Ms. Foti,
Canadian physicians have enjoyed a measure of freedom of conscience that other health careworkers do not enjoy.
I have been attempting to remedy that situation for many years through a piece of legislation that would secure this Constitutional freedom for all health care workers. The latest version of this legislation can be found on Canada’s Parliamentary website as Private Member’s Bill C-537, and which I’ve also attached.
Section 2 of Canada’s Charter of Rights and Freedoms guarantees freedom of conscience for all Canadians. It is a tragedy and an embarrassment that provinces across Canada do not secure freedom of conscience for nurses, medical students and pharmacists. It would be scandalous if Ontario, backed by its Human Rights Tribunal, chose to attempt to roll back this freedom of conscience for physicians as well. I hope that the College ofPhysicians and Surgeons of Ontario would not choose to prematurely concede to an anticipated order from the Tribunal to repeal physicians’ fundamental rights in Ontario.
In recent months Canada has witnessed a much more robust public debate about human rights than we have seen in many years. Ontario Human Rights officials are aware of this debate. It is clear that modern, Constitution-affirming Canadians recognize freedom of conscience as a fundamental human right. You would be on the right side of the issue if you also advanced and vigorously defended that position – for physicians and all other health care workers in Ontario.
The next Human Rights battle in Canada? I sure hope so.
(Go through link for a glimpse of Bill C-537)