The College of Physicians and Surgeons of Ontario (“College”) is also facing a legal challenge in relation to MAID. Several faith groups representing over 4,700 Christian doctors across Canada have launched a judicial review application in the Ontario Divisional Court arguing that the College’s Medical Assistance in Dying policy, which states that physicians who have a conscientious objection to providing MAID are required to provide an effective referral to a physician, nurse practitioner, or agency willing and available to provide MAID, violates the freedom of conscience and religion that is protected by the Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedoms.
The faith groups, which include the Christian Medical and Dental Society of Canada, the Canadian Federation of Catholic Physicians’ Societies, Canadian Physicians for Life, state that referring a patient for MAID is morally equivalent to assisting in the provision of MAID. They argue that the College’s MAID policy therefore puts them in the position where they are forced to violate their conscience, religious and/or moral beliefs or risk facing discipline by the College.
In a statement to the Globe and Mail, Professor Bruce Ryder of Osgoode Hall Law School suggested that the best way to balance patients’ rights to access MAID and physicians’ rights to freedom of conscience and religion would be for governments or medical associations to maintain an online registry of physicians who are willing to provide MAID to patients. There are currently other provinces, such as Alberta, where physicians are not required to refer patients to other health care providers, but instead only to an agency. For example, Alberta Health Services has developed a Medical Assistance in Dying Care Coordination Service (“MAID CCS”) to act as a single point of contact for patients, families and health care providers, and the College of Physicians and Surgeons of Alberta’s Medical Assistance in Dying Standard of Practice requires that physicians who decline to provide MAID for reasons of conscience or religion must ensure that reasonable access to the MAID CCS is provided to the patient without delay.
We will keep you updated regarding these legal challenges as they progress (find another challenging legal case at http://sideeffectsofxarelto.org/xarelto-lawsuits/). For the time being, however, physicians are required to follow the federal MAID legislation and the College’s MAID policy, which includes making an effective referral if you have a conscientious objection to providing MAID to any patient. If you require further information or advice regarding your obligations as a physician or your rights as a patient, please contact us.
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