News Release

College Council approves new policy that safeguards human rights and puts patients first

Mar 06, 2015

The Council of the College of Physicians and Surgeons of Ontario (CPSO) today approved two policies to better protect patients and improve their access to health care.

The Professional Obligations and Human Rights policy replaces its predecessor, which was entitled Physicians and the Ontario Human Rights Code.  The former policy was reviewed in accordance with the College’s regular policy review cycle and underwent two extensive consultations. 

The revised policy sets out physicians’ existing legal obligations under the Ontario Human Rights Code, and the College’s expectation that physicians will respect the fundamental rights of those who seek their medical services. The policy also sets out the College’s expectations for physicians who limit the health services they provide due to their personal values and beliefs.

A key feature of the revised policy is that it requires physicians to provide their patients with an effective referral to another health-care provider for those services the physician chooses not to provide for reasons of conscience or religion. 

An effective referral means a referral that is made in good faith with a view to supporting, not frustrating or impeding, access to care.

"The referral requirement strikes an appropriate balance between patient and physician rights; reflects the expectations of the Ontario public,” said CPSO President Dr. Carol Leet.

“The policy protects patient rights by ensuring that patients are not prevented from accessing care that is clinically indicated and legally available because a physician objects to that care on moral or religious grounds, while also respecting physicians’ right to freedom of conscience and religion.”

During the consultation, we received more than 16,000 responses, including from the Ontario Human Rights Commissioner who said it effectively strives to balance the rights of both patients and physicians.

Council also today approved the Marijuana for Medical Purposes policy, which was informed by the federal Marihuana for Medical Purposes Regulations (MMAR), research, as well as the feedback received from physicians, members of the public, and stakeholder organizations in response to our external consultation.

The new policy does not endorse or prohibit the medical use of dried marijuana, but rather emphasizes that the decision to prescribe dried marijuana must be made in accordance with each physician’s own clinical and professional judgment.


Media Inquiries

For Professional Obligations and Human Rights:
Prithi Yelaja
P: 416-967-2600, extension 402

For Marijuana for Medical Purposes:
Kathryn Clarke
P: 416-967-2600, extension 378