An Ontario court has told a group of doctors that they must refer for Medical Aid in Dying (MAiD), affirming conscientious objection restrictions imposed by the province’s medical regulator.
Ontario’s Divisional Court ruled that the referral requirement was a reasonable limit on doctors’ freedom of religion because it protects vulnerable patients from harm. Without the policy of “effective referral,” equitable access would be “compromised or sacrificed, in a variety of circumstances, more often than not involving vulnerable members of our society at the time of requesting services,” Justice Herman Wilton-Siegel wrote on behalf of a panel of three judges.
Five doctors and three professional organisations had appealed the conscientious objection restrictions outlined in the MAiD policy as issued by the College of Physicians and Surgeons of Ontario, arguing that it infringed their right to freedom of religion and conscience recognised under the Charter of Rights and Freedoms. The three organisations included the Christian Medical and Dental Society of Canada, the Canadian Federation of Catholic Physicians’ Societies and Canadian Physicians for Life.
Shanaaz Gookol of DWD Canada: “We believe the effective referral policy strikes a fair, sensible balance between a physician’s right to conscience or moral objection and a patient’s right to care. We are grateful that the judges’ decision puts patients first.”