Tuesday, September 2, 2008

Ontario Human Rights Commission warns that refusing medical services may result in Human Rights Code Violation

By Alex Schadenberg
Executive Director - Euthanasia Prevention Coalition

The College of Physicians and Surgeons of Ontario recently asked for submissions to a draft policy concerning "Physicians and the Ontario Human Rights Code".

This draft policy asserted that physicians may be required to provide medical services or refer patients for medical services, even if they were opposed to providing or refering the service based on their conscience.

In a document submitted by the Ontario Human Rights Commission (OHRC) to the College of Physicians and Surgeons of Ontario, the OHRC states that:
"cases in which potential patients have felt that physicians have cited "clinical competence" to explain a refusal of service that may actually have been based on a Code ground. We commend the College for setting out guidelines encouraging physicians to consider the possibility of providing basic care complemented by referrals to address the specific elements of care in whic clinical competence is a concern."
This may mean that physicians will be expected to refer patients for medical services that the physician is conscientiously opposed to providing.

Under the title - Moral or Religious Beliefs - the OHRC states:
"We wish to note that "moral beliefs," per se, are not protected by the Code, whereas religious beliefs and practices are protected under the ground of "creed""
This may mean that the OHRC recognizes religious beliefs as grounds for objection but not moral beliefs.

Therefore a secular physician who opposes euthanasia/assisted suicide, for moral reasons, may be compelled to kill as a medical service or refer the patient to another physician who would provide death as a medical service, if it were legal in Canada.

Under the same heading - Moral or Religious Beliefs - the OHRC makes suggestions for improving the wording of the College draft policy. They state:
"We also suggest that addition of the following points would be of assistance to physicians in weighing these matters: 
* As plainly stated by the Supreme Court of Canada in the Trinity Western decision, a line may be drawn between belief and conduct, and "...the freedom to hold beliefs is broader than the freedom to act on them."* Human rights protections are to be interpreted broadly, while defences for descrimination are interpreted narrowly.* It is the Commission's position that doctors, as providers of services that are not religious in nature, must essentially "check their personal views at the door" in providing medical care."
This may mean that it is one issue to hold beliefs, it is another issue to act on those beliefs. They may also be saying that human rights protections will be interpreted in a broader manner than defences. They may be finally saying that medical professionals need to check their personal views at the door.

If euthanasia/assisted suicide were legalized in Canada, physicians may be forced to carry out a duty to kill. This means that people who wish to die because they may be experiencing depression or feel like a burden on society, may be able to submit a complaint against a physician who cares for patients but does not kill patients.

The OHRC goes further by stating under the category - The Right to Accommodation vs the Duty to Accommodate:
"We therefore suggest that the College clarify that the right to "accommodation" rests with the person requesting the accommodation, whereas the duty to provide the accommodation rests with the service provider, employer or other organization.
This may mean that a patient can request accommodation and the physician has a duty to provide accommodation. With reference to issues related to the rights of people with disabilities, the duty to accommodate is important. When referring to issues related to a physicians consciencious objection, accommodation may be immoral.

Once again it appears that the Ontario Human Rights Commission may be willing to use the force of the courts to ensure that medical professionals provide medical services that their conscience leads them to refuse to provide.

If euthanasia/assisted suicide were ever legalized, then physicians who refuse to abandon their patients to death, may find themselves concerned that their willingness to care for a patient as a whole person, may cause them to face a human rights complaint that could ruin their medical practice.

The Duty to Die may be imposed upon the physician in the form of the duty to kill.

Link to submission by the Ontario Human Rights Commission to the College of Physicians and Surgeons of Ontario:


Martina said...

The Euthanasia Prevention Coalition (EPC) is a national organization that exists to build a
well-informed, broadly-based network of groups and individuals who support measures to create an effective social barrier to euthanasia and assisted suicide. Euthanasia is a deliberate act undertaken by one person with the intention of ending the life of another person to relieve that person’s suffering.

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