In Canada, doctors who also profess to be followers of Jesus could one day become a thing of the past.
An Ontario court recently made a ruling that would deter anyone who upholds the sanctity of human life from practicing medicine in that province.
The court had decided that Ontario doctors can not refuse to participate in procedures like abortion or euthanasia on religious or moral grounds. If patients ask a doctor to kill an unborn child or to help them hasten their own death, the doctor must take steps to make it happen or face disciplinary actions.
In other words, doctors in Ontario are being told that they have a duty to kill. If this ruling goes unchallenged, it might only be a matter of time before other provinces adopt the same hardened stance against the conscience rights of doctors, other health care providers and institutions.
Prior to June 2016, euthanasia and assisted suicide were still considered criminal acts in Canada. Now, they are considered legitimate forms of medical care and treatment. The euphemism “medical assistance in dying” (MAID) was cleverly adopted to obscure the fact that individuals are being deliberately killed.
By the end of December 2017, more than 3,700 Canadians had died prematurely via MAID. According to the most recent government report, the incidence of MAID is on the rise and there are now, on average, eight medically-assisted deaths in Canada each day.
Although the law enables patients to seek MAID, it was understood that doctors in Canada are under no obligation to provide it. Many physicians hold the conviction that the taking of lives is sinful or immoral and incongruous with the practice of medicine. The preamble to the federal legislation says doctors can refuse to participate in any part of the process if they object on moral or religious grounds.
But then the College of Physicians and Surgeons of Ontario (CPSO) instituted a policy which says that doctors who have conscientious or religious objections to providing services like MAID or abortion still have the duty to provide effective referrals.
The issue is whether giving an effective referral, which involves ensuring that another doctor will do the killing, constitutes participation in the act. The College argues that it does not. But many physicians believe that they would be complicit in the act because they facilitated it. (It’s worth noting that making such a referral before the legalization of MAID would have resulted in a criminal charge of conspiracy to commit first degree murder!)
For doctors who believe that their referrals would contribute significantly to the premature deaths of their patients, the CPSO policy is a major and substantial violation of their conscience rights. Because our behavior is inextricably linked to our convictions (Jas. 2:18), coercing someone to engage in something they believe to be sinful or immoral demands a rejection of intellect, will and conscience, and is an assault on human dignity.
As Christians, we believe that each life is a gift from God. As such, we recognize that we are stewards of our lives, not owners. We also believe that we are created in His image. Therefore, every life has God-given value and dignity that is not defined by our earthly circumstances (our health, age, physical abilities, etc.). And we believe that God is sovereign over life and death (Deut. 32:39). As such, we must not usurp God’s authority in these matters.
In contrast, secular culture teaches that the highest purpose in life is pleasure or the satisfaction of desires; that life is only valuable for what it offers. Many believe that there is little value in suffering and that a life that is of “low quality” is not worth living. This has led to the inevitable conclusion that some people are less valuable than others and that these people are “better off dead.”
The Christian Medical and Dental Society of Canada, along with other physician advocacy groups, had challenged the CPSO policy in court. The coalition, which represents 4,700 doctors, claimed that the policy violates their freedom of conscience and religion as protected under the Charter of Rights and Freedoms. The EFC was an intervenor in the case along with the Ontario Assembly of Catholic Bishops and the Christian Legal Fellowship.
Sadly, the Ontario Divisional Court ruled that it is reasonable to limit doctors’ freedom of conscience and religion in order to protect patient access to services like abortion and MAID (although other provinces and other jurisdictions around the world have found ways to both respect conscientious objectors and maintain patient access).
Christian doctors who wish to practice medicine according to their religious convictions should be supported, not punished. As it now stands, Ontario doctors unwilling to provide “effective referrals” will face fines and risk losing their licences. Many may be forced to retire early, relocate or change their area of practice so they will not have to deal with referral requests for objectionable procedures.
In May 2018, the coalition of doctors filed an application to appeal the lower court’s decision. The EFC is preparing to intervene with our partners. Will you support our efforts with a generous donation today? Help us stand up for doctors who value the sanctity of human life.