Ontario’s highest court has ruled that doctors within the Canadian province must provide their patients with referrals for medical procedures that go against their personal beliefs, including abortion services.
In a perfectly reasonable compromise, the Ontario Court of Appeal upheld a College of Physicians and Surgeons of Ontario policy requiring doctors to send patients elsewhere if they object to the procedure. It’s still fine for doctors to say no to performing an abortion, but patients shouldn’t have to suffer because doctors have a faith-based objection to their health care.
Not that they were willing to accept that common sense. A group of doctors asked the court to overturn a lower decision forcing them to write the referrals, but the appellate court (the province’s highest court) unanimously rejected that appeal.
“The issues raised in this proceeding present difficult choices for religious physicians who object to the policies, but they do have choices,” the appeal court wrote.
“While the solution is not a perfect one for some physicians, such as the individual appellants, it is not a perfect one for their patients either. They will lose the personal support of their physicians at a time when they are most vulnerable.”
The policies “represent a compromise,” the court wrote.
“They strike a reasonable balance between patients’ interests and physicians’ Charter-protected religious freedom. They are reasonable limits prescribed by law that are demonstrably justified in a free and democratic society.”
The entire ruling speaks to the entire idea of the Hippocratic Oath: Do no harm, first and foremost. While the doctors in this lawsuit had no problem letting certain patients suffer, the least they will have to do now is tell those patients where they can find a better doctor.
At a time where U.S. states are systematically making it harder for women and LGBTQ people to access comprehensive health care, it’s good to see Ontario make a decision that’s actually in the best interests of patients rather than a group of religious conservatives who insist everyone bend to their will.
At least the doctors who sued are taking the loss in a humble, sincere way.
Just kidding. They say they may appeal the decision and that they’d rather stop practicing medicine than help people.
“Ultimately it is patient care that suffers, as our doctors will retire early, relocate, or change fields,” said Dr. Ryan Wilson, president of Canadian Physicians for Life, one of three professional organizations involved in the appeal, along with five individual doctors.
“For many, their religious and conscience rights are being violated, and they won’t be able to practise medicine in Ontario.”
Wilson later told reporters in a conference call that the group has yet to decide whether to appeal the case to the Supreme Court of Canada, but said an appeal “is not off the table.”
News flash: If you aren’t willing to help people with their medical needs, you’re not practicing medicine. There’s no good reason to think an appeal would be successful when there’s no real controversy here at all. Patients will be able to access the care they need, and doctors won’t have to perform the procedures if they have personal reasons against it. It’s a win for both sides. These doctors are just upset that patients will get to control their own bodies.
(Image via Shutterstock. Thanks to everyone for the link)