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Canadian physicians face challenges to Freedom of Conscience

December 3, 2015 2 Comments

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CANADA – Medical doctors across the country continue to face challenges to their freedom of conscience as a number of the provincial colleges which regulate medicine in Canada consider new regulations that would restrict physicians’ freedom on moral issues like abortion and euthanasia. The policies in many cases would require doctors to refer for and even, in some cases, perform procedures they feel would harm and not help their patients. Failure to comply could result in disciplinary action.

“Many physicians across the country are concerned about these policies, especially in the context of the decriminalization of physician-assisted dying, which the Supreme Court of Canada set for early February 2016,” explains Dr. W. Joseph Askin, Chair of the Christian Medical and Dental Society of Canada’s (CMDSC) Freedom of Conscience Committee. “We believe that the departure from the Hippocratic standards of medicine will endanger patients and jeopardize doctor-patient trust. A physician’s conscience may be the last line of defense for a vulnerable patient, so physicians need to be free to say ‘No’ to controverted procedures.”

Dr. Askin is a member of Grace Lutheran Church, a Lutheran Church–Canada congregation in Calgary. He is calling on Lutherans across the country to join the CMDS in supporting the rights of physicians. “I am writing you to ask for your assistance in alerting Canadian Lutherans to threats to physicians’ conscience rights and enlisting their help in supporting those rights, which are vitally important for patient safety and the moral integrity of physicians.”

There are a variety of ways in which Canadian Lutherans can defend the physicians’ conscience rights. This can include writing letters to your province’s ministry of health and college of physicians and surgeons, as well as the federal government. For more information and assistance in this regard, please visit the website Moral Conviction at www.moralconvictions.ca (a website sponsored by the CMDS, the Canadian Federation of Catholic Physicians’ Societies, and Canadian Physicians for Life).

In October, Lutheran Church–Canada joined the Evangelical Fellowship of Canada, the Canadian Conference of Catholic Bishops, and other Canadian faith leaders in issuing a declaration on assisted suicide and euthanasia. The declaration calls on legislators to “implement regulations and policies that ensure respect for the freedom of conscience of all health-care workers and administrators who will not and cannot accept suicide or euthanasia as a medical solution to pain and suffering.”

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