CMDS et al v. College of Physicians and Surgeons of Ontario [2017-2019]

30 May 2017

An appeal is set for Jan. 2019 in this challenge to the Ontario requirement that doctors provide effective referrals for procedures they object to on grounds of conscience, such as euthanasia and assisted suicide.

UPDATE 2018-11-13: The EFC has filed its factum with the Ontario Court of Appeal in the CPSO case.

UPDATE 2018-10-15: We have been granted leave to intervene in the CPSO case before the Ontario court of appeal. Dates for the appeal have been set for January 21-22 in Toronto.

UPDATE 2018-05-31: The disappointing January 2018 court decision in Ontario is being appealed. Doctor groups filed their papers May 18, 2018.

UPDATE 2018-01-31: A decision in this case was released Jan. 31, 2018. Read the EFC's response.

The EFC participated in a College of Physicians and Surgeons of Ontario (CPSO) consultation on a draft policy in February 2015. In its communication that month to the CPSO, the EFC underlined that a referral is a professional recommendation for a particular course of action and is understood by some doctors to be the moral equivalent of providing the treatment itself. The EFC urged the CPSO to respect and protect the freedom of conscience of physicians and delete the requirement to provide a referral.

The CPSO updated its policy, Professional Obligations and Human Rights, in March 2015. The policy states, “Where physicians are unwilling to provide certain elements of care for reasons of conscience or religion, an effective referral to another health-care provider must be provided to the patient…. Physicians must provide care in an emergency, where it is necessary to prevent imminent harm, even where that care conflicts with their conscience or religious beliefs.”

The CPSO passed its policy Medical Assistance in Dying, in June 2016. The policy specifies that physicians who object to providing medical assistance in dying for reasons of conscience or religion must provide an effective referral.

The challenge of the CPSO policies was launched by five doctors and several organizations, including the Christian Medical and Dental Society of Canada, an EFC affiliate.

The EFC is a co-intervener in this case with the Assembly of Catholic Bishops of Ontario and Christian Legal Fellowship. Our legal factum submitted in April 2017 argues that the CPSO policies violate the foundational and constitutionally protected freedom of conscience and religion. It is in the public interest to protect the freedom of conscience of health-care professionals.

This case was heard by the Ontario Superior Court of Justice June 13-15, 2017, and a transcript of our oral presentation is available at the CLF blog. A ruling was released Jan. 31, 2018 and the EFC published a response the same day. The decision is being appealed. Doctor groups filed their papers May 18, 2018. A date for the appeal has not yet been set.

Related materials

→ Lawyer Albertos Polizigopoulos summarized the issues in one of our Three Questions Interviews on June 6, 2017
→ EFC Vice-President David Guretzki tackled the issue on 100 Huntley Street on June 13, 2017 (skip to minute 20)
→ Listen to a June 13, 2017 Lighthouse News podcast to hear an interview on the issue with EFC President Bruce Clemenger