Thursday, October 6, 2022

Canadian Medical Conscience Rights Bill defeated in Parliament

Alex Schadenberg
Executive Director, 
Euthanasia Prevention Coalition

On February 4, 2022 Kelly Block, MP tabled Private Members Bill C-230 The Protection of Freedom of Conscience Act.

On October 5, Canada's parliament defeated C-230 by a 208 to 115 vote that was essentially split based on the political party with most of the Conservatives, including Pierre Poilievre, voting in favour of the bill and nearly every Liberal, NDP and Bloc Québécois MP voting against it. How your MP voted on C-230 (Link).

Thank you Kelly Block for championing the rights of medical practitioners conscience rights.

Bill C-230 protected conscience rights for medical practitioners by preventing coercion and intimidation from forcing them to participate in medical assistance in dying and it protected employment for medical professionals who conscientiously objected to medical assistance in dying.

EPC supported C-230 because Canada's MAiD legislation may not force medical practitioners from doing euthanasia (MAiD), but it doesn't protect conscientious objectors from coercion, it doesn't protect their employment and it doesn't protect them from being forced to participate by doing an effective referral.

EPC launched an petition to support C-230 which had 16,500 online signatures (Petition in support of Bill C-230) and we distributed C-230 post-cards that our supporters sent to members of parliament.

The need for conscience rights has not ended.

Conscience rights are fundamental freedoms that are protected by Section 2 of Canada's Charter of Rights and Freedoms.

With the implementation of killing by euthanasia (MAiD) in Canada conscience rights have been undermined under the guise of a supposed "right" to access MAiD. 

Each province has a MAiD delivery program that doesn't require conscience rights to be undermined but the reality is that medical practitioners continue to be pressured to participate in MAiD. Only Manitoba guarantees conscience rights protections for medical practitioners.

Further to that, conscience rights are essential to protect patients. When someone is living with chronic or life limiting illness they will often be emotionally or psychologically affected by the experience. Conscience rights enable a physician to freely protect patients and enable them to live through their crisis.

Our work has not ended. Conscience rights will someday be respected.

1 comment:

Dr Shirley van der Merwe said...

As a Family Physician I read so much about the Health Crisis that is occurring in our country at present. The defeat of the Conscience Rights Bill just goes to show that those in power do not really care about us as physicians as people. In the beginning of the COVID pandemic, in a forum taking about resilience in physicians, I first heard the term "Moral Injury" - the hurt we, as Physicians, experience when asked to go against our consciences in medical decisions. I realized that I was experiencing moral injury each time I was approached by a patient asking for an abortion or MAiD and I experience fear for my job if I don't refer (I have already be censured by my College for referring a patient to a Pregnancy Care Center rather than for an abortion). I was so hoping to know that those in power had my back with regards protecting my Charter rights to freedom of religion and freedom of conscience. Sadly, the message the overthrow of this Bill sends to me, as a doctor, that my conscience and my rights don't matter. It is no wonder we are in a crisis with regards health care staffing when we subject our health care workers to moral injury and refuse to recognize their right to conscientiously object. To those of you who live in ridings where your MP voted against this Bill - write to them and point out to them the link between them voting against conscience rights and the crisis we have in our health care system with regards staffing levels. Why would I want to work in a Health Care System that asks me to kill patients and refuses me my right to refuse when I promised to protect life and fight for it!?