Ontario doctors challenge assisted suicide referral mandate

A coalition representing more than 5,000 doctors and 100 healthcare providers in Canada is seeking a judicial review of the College of Physicians and Surgeons of Ontario's requirement that doctors who oppose assisted suicide or euthanasia should refer patients to other physicians who are willing to perform the procedure.

(Reuters/Lee Celano)Hospital beds in a file photo. August 04, 2015 09:24am EDT

The Coalition for HealthCARE and Conscience argues that the requirement compels them to participate in something that is against their moral convictions. The coalition said the federal law says no person must be forced to participate in assisted suicide.

"The College of Physicians and Surgeons of Ontario (CPSO) demands that doctors who conscientiously object to assisted suicide refer patients seeking to end their lives to other physicians who will provide the procedure. No other foreign jurisdiction that has legalized assisted suicide requires doctors to perform or refer for this procedure," the coalition said in a statement.

Larry Worthen, executive director of the Christian Medical and Dental Society of Canada and a member of the coalition, said that CPSO's policy demands that doctors ignore their conscience and refer people for assisted suicide.

He explained that referring people for assisted death and actual participation in such are "morally and ethically the same thing."

"This threatens the very core of why they became physicians, which is to help to heal people. This is discrimination. It is unnecessary," Worthen said.

Aside from the Christian Medical and Dental Society of Canada, two other physician groups in the coalition are challenging CPSO's regulation. The Canadian Federation of Catholic Physicians' Societies and Canadian Physicians for Life are also pushing for a judicial review of the requirement, asking the court to assess whether the current approach of CPSO is unconstitutional.

The groups' lawyer, Albertos Polizogopoulos of Ottawa said they might opt to request for one judge, instead of three, to conduct the review to make the process faster, which means a court date could be set as early as the fall, reported The Globe and Mail.

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