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

01 June 2017

This case challenges the Ontario requirement that doctors provide an effective referral for procedures against their conscientious objection, such as euthanasia and assisted suicide.

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 has not yet been released.

Related materials

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