NRL News

Ontario College of Physicians issues new policy requiring physicians to refer for abortions and assisted suicide

by | Mar 10, 2015

By Dave Andrusko

The College of Physicians and Surgeons of Ontario

The College of Physicians and Surgeons of Ontario

The right for physicians to exercise their conscientious objections to abortion and assisted suicide has been under siege, as NRL News Today has reported in many stories.

The headline in the Canadian newspaper The Star conveyed only half the dreary truth: “Anti-abortion MDs must refer for abortions, watchdog says.”

In fact, as the very last sentence in Theresa Boyle’s story mentions, the policy by the Ontario College of Physicians and Surgeons has a second prong:

“[Bioethicist Kerry] Bowman said he expects that the new policy will also oblige doctors to make referrals on assisted suicide.”

The press release distributed by the college said physicians must now provide an “effective referral to another health-care provider.”

And the penalties for failure to knuckle under include revocation of a doctor’s medical license. Or at least a “requirement to upgrade their education,” depending on how “serious” the violation is.

Why the need to “update its human rights policy”?

“There have been some complaints about access to care,” said Dr. Carol Leet, president of the Ontario College of Physicians and Surgeons. According to Boyle, “Doctors who refuse to refer patients for services on religious and moral grounds — including abortions — could face discipline under a new policy adopted by their regulating body.”

The change is a huge one. Under the old policy, doctors did not have to provide services that conflicted with their personal values and beliefs. It did not specify whether they must refer patient to other doctors.

“Leet said the new policy, approved by the CPSO’s governing council last Friday, is ‘very explicit’ that they must refer patients,” Boyle reported.

The one light (so to speak) note in this gloomy development is how Leet finessed the opposition to the policy.

Leet “could not confirm reports that the majority of 16,000 responses were opposed to it” when the college held a public consultation on the policy. She brushed off what was clearly a majority opposition as the “concerted lobby effort by organizations and individuals opposed to it to make their views known.”

Last Friday Steve Weatherbe reported that the vote was 21-3. Among others, Weatherbe interviewed Sean Murphy of the Protection of Conscience Project:

Murphy said there would now be pressure on the other professional colleges to follow suit. The Saskatchewan College of Physicians and Surgeons’ non-elected officials met with Ontario officials last year and agreed on virtually identical changes to their codes. Saskatchewan’s college will vote later this month.

Murphy also predicted that “some poor doctor” in Ontario who went public with his opposition to the policy will soon be visited by a patient-provocateur seeking a referral for an abortion in order to start a test case.

This ominous development comes exactly a month after the Supreme Court of Canada gutted the nation’s law against assisted suicide.