MP Anderson tables bill to protect conscience rights of health care professionals
Tuesday in the House of Commons, David Anderson, MP for Cypress Hills– Grasslands tabled Bill C-418, the Protection of Freedom of Conscience Act, to protect conscience rights for health care professionals.
The purpose of The Protection of Freedom of Conscience Act is to protect the rights of health care professionals to conscientiously object to participation in medical assistance in dying (MAID), making it an offence to intimidate or try to force a health care professional to be involved in MAID. It also makes it an offence to fire or refuse to employ a health care professional for refusing to take part, directly or indirectly, in the provision of MAID.
MAID became legal across Canada in 2016. This bill addresses a legislative gap in protecting the right to refuse participation in MAID, which is already guaranteed in the Criminal Code, but which lacks clarity for effective enforcement.
Anderson views the protection of conscience rights for medical professionals as part of protecting the fundamental freedom of conscience and religion guaranteed to all Canadians in the Charter of Rights and Freedoms. “I believe it’s time to stand up for doctors and health care providers who aren’t willing to leave their core ethics behind when they’re at a patient’s bedside. Access to MAID and the right to conscientious objection aren’t mutually exclusive,” Anderson said.
A recent court case in Ontario highlights the undue tension placed on health care providers in some jurisdictions to provide effective referrals for MAID. Doctors who object to involvement in MAID, including members of religious communities and doctors who believe their fundamental role is to heal, not take life, argue that providing referrals is tantamount to direct involvement in MAID. The Protection of Freedom of Conscience Act will provide support for health care providers who object to providing MAID based on conscience or religion and who are at risk of facing discrimination, coercion, or being fired for refusing to participate.
Anderson draws comparisons between his work on international human rights and the history of rights in Canada. “Canada is a nation built on the freedom to have dissenting beliefs and follow one’s conscience, and we must stand up for these rights wherever we see them being assaulted. The right of doctors to refuse to take the life of a patient is one of these,” he concluded.
To read the First Reading publication of C-418, visit http://www.parl.ca/ Documentviewer/en/42-1/bill/c-418/ first-reading.