Fighting for the ‘Conscience Rights’ of Doctors and other Health Professionals in Ontario

A Column by Sam Oosterhoff, MPP for Niagara West-Glanbrook Riding

Posted May 4th, 2017 on Niagara At Large

In March, I attended hearings for Bill 84, the Medical Assistance in Dying legislation put forward by the provincial Liberals.

Niagara West-Glanbrook MPP Sam Oosterhoff

I listened to doctors, nurses, ethicists, religious leaders and human rights advocates who had travelled from across Ontario to bring forward their concerns about this law. After the federal Liberal government legalized physician assisted suicide last year, they wanted to ensure there was adequate consultation in the provincial implementation.

Faced with the situation of legal physician assisted suicide, health professionals need clear and explicit conscience protection so that they will not be forced to take part and contradict their deeply held personal convictions.

Conscience rights are fundamental human rights which are clearly protected in our country under Section 2(a) of the Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedoms. Yet Bill 84 offers no protection for the conscience rights of health professionals.

Since Bill 84 was introduced last December, my office has been flooded with phone calls, emails, and visits from constituents who are concerned with the lack of conscience protections in the bill.

Some doctors say that they would have to leave the practice of medicine in Ontario if they were forced to act against their conscience. Physicians should not be punished for conducting their work according to their most deeply-held ethical or religious convictions.

The Ontario PC Party put forward two amendments that would have provided robust conscience protection. We believe health care professionals should not be forced to refer for, perform or assist in physician assisted suicide against their will and should not be discriminated against for taking this stand. Unfortunately both amendments were rejected by the Liberal majority on the committee.

Larry Worthen of the Coalition for HealthCARE and Conscience told the committee: “We want to reassure you that there is another way. No foreign jurisdiction that has legalized assisted suicide has required doctors or nurses to participate against their will, and there’s no indication that this has caused any crisis in access. Other provinces – specifically Alberta – have come up with innovative options.” Ontario can and should do the same.

My colleague Jeff Yurek, the health critic for the PC Caucus, will be introducing a Private Member’s Bill in May as another way to fight for conscience protection in Ontario. I will continue to fight for conscience rights, and I encourage you to contact my office to share your thoughts and perspective on this very sensitive and important issue.

Niagara At Large welcomes columns submitted by any of our MPPs, MPs or municipal representatives in the Niagara, Ontario area and from elected representatives in Western New York, where we are pleased to say we have many readers.

NIAGARA AT LARGE encourages you to join the conversation by sharing your views on this post in the space below the Bernie quote.

A reminder that we only post comments by individuals who also share their first and last names.

For more news and commentary from Niagara At Large – an independent, alternative voice for our greater binational Niagara region – become a regular visitor and subscriber to NAL at .

“A politician thinks of the next election. A leader thinks of the next generation.” – Bernie Sanders



3 responses to “Fighting for the ‘Conscience Rights’ of Doctors and other Health Professionals in Ontario

  1. If they wont by choice I will change doctors for one who would do it.


  2. What the hell am I missing here? A family doctor can so easily and respectfully communicate to an individual or to a family that he or she does not endorse or facilitate assisted suicides and can then leave it up to others to facilitate that process for us. We are long overdue for assisted suicides as well as a good deal of honest discussion about it so that the taboo is finally lifted and needless suffering ended. As stated too often, we have the compassion to put our pets and farm animals down but we insist, for no compelling reasons, that humans suffer ’til our last breath.

    Sam Oosterhof says “Physicians should not be punished for conducting their work according to their most deeply-held ethical or religious convictions.” REALLY??? Does Sam have ANY idea what barbaric procedures take place in other countries? Oops, I forgot, Sam is only in his first year of university and doesn’t know squat about the world outside of his mother’s house. Hey, Sam, how about female genital mutilation (Say it out loud, Sam!!! It’s a real thing!), also known as female genital cutting and female circumcision? It is the ritual removal of some or all of the external female genitalia. The practice is found in Africa, Asia and the Middle East. Do the doctors who practice those procedures and deeply believe in their ethical and religious convictions get to practice those mutilations here? Oh, let me add, FEMALE GENITAL MUTILATION is performed WITHOUT THE CONSENT of the WOMAN!!!


  3. Linda McKellar

    Self righteousness and personal religious dogma cannot supersede the dying wishes of a suffering human being. It is NOT the choice of the caregiver. If you cannot fulfil the requirements of a particular job, get another job or simply provide an alternate caregiver. Simple! Keep religious laws off the books. We are NOT a theocracy. Separation of church and state is essential. We must have freedom of religion and freedom FROM religion and base laws on common sense, not Bronze Age beliefs.

    The salient point is, if someone is suffering intractable pain, is terminal and begs to die, that option must be available to them. There also are many safeguards to protect from unreasonable assisted suicide. I have had many patients beg me to overdose them with morphine or other drugs to end their agony but, of course, that was not allowed and rightly so under the circumstances and at the time. When assisted end of life is law, the patient has the RIGHT to request it in such cases AND to be provided with it according to the carefully thought out standards as set. NOBODY takes such decisions lightly, either the sick person or their caregiver. The wishes of the care givers are secondary and, as Carla said, they can always ask another practitioner to take over care as they wish. Passing a law about it is needless.

    If you are a JW and don’t believe in blood transfusions, do you, as a medical professional, refuse to give life saving blood to someone hemorrhaging? Ask a fellow nurse or doctor to order or administer it if that is a problem. Why even enter a medical professional if you cannot fulfil the requirements? I recall a patient would die without blood. The patient and family were JW’s. The minister had the unmitigated gall to bring a list of “blood replacements”, including normal saline and Ringer’s lactate. IDIOT! These are definitely NOT blood replacements, cannot carry oxygen and the patient would die. When explained to the woman, she said, “give me the blood”, against the wishes of the daughter, her pastor and her own beliefs….she lived. Funny how circumstances change when the rubber hits the road. Her life was more important to her than antiquated voodoo teachings which had absolutely no validity in that case. Thinking normal saline was a blood replacement is like waving garlic to keep away vampires!

    I’m fed up with some religious trying to impose their beliefs on others and pretending to have a monopoly on virtue. They don’t. If you don’t want blood, refuse it. If you don’t believe in abortion, don’t have one. If you don’t believe in assisted death, refuse it. YOUR choice but stop inflicting ridiculous personal beliefs on others and insisting on laws when common sense can suffice. There are alternatives for care givers. There are NOT always alternatives for the suffering patients. If not in their shoes, you have no right to judge.


Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s