March 2, 2015
To: College of Physicians and Surgeons of Saskatchewan
|Editor's note: The EFC has also sent a similar letter regarding a similar situation in Ontario.
Re: Draft Policy on Conscientious Refusal
The Evangelical Fellowship of Canada (EFC) welcomes this opportunity to participate in the dialogue about the College of Physician and Surgeons of Saskatchewan (CPSS) Draft Policy on Conscientious Refusal.
The EFC is a national association of denominations, ministry organizations, post-secondary educational institutions including universities, seminaries and colleges, and local congregations. Some of our affiliates provide medical and health care in Canada and overseas, and many physicians are members of our affiliated denominations. The Christian Medical Dental Society (CMDS) is an affiliate of the EFC and we endorse the submission made by the CMDS and the Canadian Federation of Catholic Physician Societies (CFCPS) dated March 1, 2015.
The EFC is active in promoting the religious freedom of all persons. We agree that physicians ought to respect the rights and freedoms, and the diversity of all patients, and treat all with the same respect and dignity.
We also affirm the rights and freedoms of physicians and surgeons, including their freedom of conscience and religion. Our concern with the draft policy is that Clause 5.3 requires that the physician make referrals for procedures even though their conscience may not allow them to do so.
Providing an effective referral involves more than providing information about clinical options. Providing a referral means the doctor is convinced that in their judgment the best interest of the patient is served by a particular course of medical treatment or procedure. By providing the referral, the doctor is taking direct action and is in effect prescribing a course of action or treatment for a patient. Some doctors believe that providing an effective referral is morally the same as providing the course of action or treatment itself. To compel them to do so, then, is a violation of their Charter rights and freedoms.
Further, according to Clause 5.4, physicians are required to perform procedures that go against their conscience “when a referral to another health care provider is not possible without causing a delay that would jeopardize the patient’s health or well-being.” This clause is problematic because it negates the freedom of conscience and religion of physicians and surgeons.
The freedoms of patients and of doctors are protected under the Charter of Rights and Freedoms. The CPSS is bound by the Charter and must not enforce policies that violate the rights or freedoms of its members. As the submission of the CMDS and the CFCPS notes, it is not the CPSS’s role to ensure access to procedures like abortion or euthanasia, and, “(t)here is no human right in Canada to demand and receive particular services from a specific physician.” However, the role of the CPSS does include ensuring that a physician is not compelled to participate in undertaking procedures or prescribing pharmaceuticals that violate their freedom of conscience and religion. We are concerned that under the draft policy the burden is being placed on the individual physician when it is the CPSS that is bound by the Charter and has a duty to accommodate the physician’s Charter rights.
We urge the CPSS to revise the draft policy to ensure the Charter rights and freedoms of all impacted by the policy are affirmed and respected.
Bruce J. Clemenger
President, The Evangelical Fellowship of Canada