Uniform coercive policy urged for all Canadian physicians

Project submission to the Saskatchewan College of Physicians discloses details

News Release | Protection of Conscience Project

The Protection of Conscience Project has charged that a controversial policy proposed by the College of Physicians and Surgeons of Saskatchewan is unjustified.

The policy, Conscientious Refusal, will require all Saskatchewan physicians who object to a procedure for reasons of conscience to facilitate the procedure by referring patients to a colleague who will provide it, even if it is homicide or suicide.

The Project noted that the burden of proof was on the policy’s supporters to prove that the policy is justified and that no less oppressive alternatives are available.

"They failed to do so," states the submission. "The policy should be withdrawn."

"Conscientious Refusal fails to recognize that the practice of medicine is a moral enterprise, that morality is a human enterprise, and that physicians, no less than patients, are moral agents" said the Project, describing the policy as "profoundly disrespectful of the moral agency of physicians."

Using documents provided by the College, the Project’s submission traces the origin of the policy to a meeting in 2013. The meeting was apparently convened by the Conscience Research Group (CRG), activist academics whose goal is to compel physicians unwilling to provide morally contested procedures like abortion or euthanasia to refer patients to someone willing to do so. They presented a coercive model policy that had been drafted to achieve that goal.

According to a CPSS memo, College attendees included Saskatchewan Associate Registrar Bryan Salte, Dr. Gus Grant, Registrar of the College of Physicians and Surgeons of Nova Scotia, Andréa Foti of the Policy Department of the College of Physicians and Surgeons of Ontario and a representative of the Collège des Médecins du Québec. They agreed upon a text virtually identical to the CRG model.

In May, 2014, Bryan Salte proposed the policy to Registrars of the Colleges of British Columbia, Alberta, Manitoba and Ontario, who, he reported, agreed to review it and consider implementing it. He later urged all of the Registrars of Colleges of Physicians in Canada to adopt the coercive policy or one very like it, noting that "physician assisted suicide, in particular" would be present a challenge for administrators.

"Any College that is an outlier, either because it has adopted a different position than other Colleges, or because it has not developed a policy, will potentially be placed in a difficult position," he warned.

The CPSS memo discloses that, unbeknownst to physicians, officials in several provinces have been making plans behind closed doors to suppress freedom of conscience in the medical profession.

"One of the disturbing aspects of the story," notes the submission, "is what appears to be a pattern of concealment, selective disclosure, and false or misleading statements that all serve the purpose of supporting the policy."

The Project’s most recent submission to the College of Physicians and Surgeons of Ontario identifies a similarly troubling pattern, describing briefing materials supplied to College Council in support of its controversial policy as "not only seriously deficient, but erroneous and seriously misleading."

Project Submission to the College of Physicians and Surgeons of Saskatchewan (2015) Project Submission to the College of Physicians and Surgeons of Ontario (2015)

Contact:

(Sean Murphy) Administrator

Protection of Conscience Project

7120 Tofino St.

Powell River

British Columbia

Canada V8A 1G3

E-mail: protection@consciencelaws.org

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