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A response to Carter? Doctors seek injunction in respect of new CPSO Policy

The Health Law Institute at Dalhousie University reports that various stakeholders are seeking an injunction against the enforcement of the College of Physicians and Surgeons’ (CPSO’s) new policy #2-15, “Professional Obligations and Human Rights.” The claimants apparently take issue with the new policy’s requirement that physicians refer patients elsewhere in respect of services that that the referring physician prefers not to administer for reasons of religion or conscious. It also prohibits the withholding of information in respect of treatments that conflict with treating physician’s religion or conscious.

The Carter decision provides that doctors need not administer physician-assisted suicide if it is contrary to the doctor’s religion or conscious. However, as the above proceeding illustrates, some health care providers will not only refuse to administer physician-assisted suicide, they may also refuse to educate or refer patients who request that treatment.

We do not yet know what doctors in Quebec will do with their Bill C-52, which requires all health care facilities in that province to make terminal sedation and medical aid in dying available to Quebec residents, but also relieves doctors from that obligation if the treatment is contrary to their conscious (notably, Quebec does not provide a statutory exception for religion).

The Carter decision resolved some issues and opened the door to others. We expect the above proceeding is the first of many as the medical profession tackles the governance of physician-assisted suicide – a treatment that doctors in Canada will be free to administer as of February 2016.

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