Statement from the College of Physicians and Surgeons — Professional Obligations and Human Rights
Mar 24, 2015
The College of Physicians and Surgeons of Ontario has been served with a Notice of Application from the Christian Medical and Dental Society, the Canadian Federation of Catholic Physicians and several Ontario physicians alleging that the College’s Professional Obligations and Human Rights policy violates the Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedoms.
We will vigorously defend the recently approved policy.
The policy requires that physicians act in a manner that respects patient dignity, ensures access to care, and protects patient safety when they choose not to provide health care for reasons of their religion or conscience. The policy does not require physicians to perform procedures or provide treatments to which they object on religious basis, except during a medical emergency.
We believe the policy strikes the appropriate balance between physicians’ Charter rights, their professional and ethical obligations, and the expectations of the public.
The policy was developed as a result of a rigorous review process which included two extensive public consultations. Comments were provided by members of the public, the profession and other stakeholders via correspondence, email or regular mail, a brief online survey, or by posting comments to the online discussion page. The College also sought the views of the Ontario public at large by commissioning a public opinion poll. The results of the poll are representative of the public’s views on conscientious objection.
The results indicated that the vast majority of Ontarians believe that physicians, who object to providing certain elements of care on moral or religious grounds, should be required to identify another physician who will provide the treatment, and make and/or coordinate the referral.
Highlights from the public polling results are as follows:
Ontarians believe that physicians who object to providing care on moral or religious grounds should be required to do the following:
Provide patients with information about treatment or procedure options (94%)
Identify another physician who will provide the treatment and advise the patient to contact them (92%)
Make/coordinate the referral (87%).
The College reviewed all of the feedback it received carefully. Decisions about policy revisions are made with the goal of ensuring the final policy is consistent with the College’s mandate to protect and serve the public interest, and represents the expectations the public and the profession itself has of physicians in Ontario.
The Professional Obligations and Human Rights policy is available on our website.