Heathcare Workers Should Not Have to Leave Their Conscience At Home

With files from

In Canada, everyone has the right to their faith and their conscience. The Coalition for HealthCARE and Conscience is focused on protecting Canadian doctor's conscience rights by advocating for conscience protection both federally and provincially.

With physician-assisted suicide now legal in Canada, healthcare practitioners and facilities in some provinces are in a difficult position. Those who cannot support assisted suicide or euthanasia because of their conscience, faith, or commitment to the Hippocratic Oath are forced to compromise their convictions.

The Issue

As of June 17, 2016, it is now legal for patients to request physician-assisted suicide in Canada.Despite limited conscience protection in federal legislation (Bill C-14) and freedom of conscience enshrined in the Canadian Charter of Rights & Freedoms, there are still provinces where conscience rights are at risk.

In Ontario, for example, the College and Physicians and Surgeons (CPSO) has abandoned thousands of doctors who cannot provide referrals for medical assistance in dying.

In Manitoba, the government has passed Bill 34, a legislation that protects doctors, nurses and pharmacists from having to perform or aid in the provision of assisted suicide against their conscience. This bill passed with support from all parties after Manitoba legislators received over 14,000 letters through our Call for Conscience campaign.

Each provincial government needs to be encouraged to create legislation that ensures that doctors, nurses and pharmacists have their conscience rights protected.

While health care workers respect the decisions of patients, they entered into medicine to save lives, not end them.

Bill C-14 included some conscience protections for Canadians, these protections did not go far enough to protect health care workers across Canada.

Regulatory college can pass policies that require health care workers to refer for, and in some cases perform, physician-assisted suicide, even if those procedures go against their conscience. The College of Physicians and Surgeons of Ontario has already passed policies that require an effective referral, which violates the conscience rights of Ontario physicians.

Forcing healthcare providers to violate their conscience rights directly impedes their constitutional right to freedom of conscience and religion guaranteed under the Charter (Section 2).

Requiring healthcare workers to participate in assisted suicide as a condition of employment is a form of discrimination and is subject to a section 15 Charter challenge. It also violates the spirit of the conscience protections enshrined in Bill C-14.

If these policies enacted at the provincial level remain in place, many healthcare providers and facilities will be unable to continue to serve their patients.

The Coalition for HealthCARE and Conscience is asking provincial governments to create a process that would allow patients to directly access a care coordination service which would provide access to a range of services for the patient, including assessments for physician-assisted suicide or euthanasia.

Patients would have the option of directly accessing this service or initiating a complete transfer of care to another physician. Physicians would  therefore not have to refer. Patients who request this procedure at a facility that does not provide it could be transferred to another facility. Similar situations are handled daily in our healthcare facilities when patients require access to a host of other care services that do not exist at their current facility. 

This proposal balances the rights of both patient and doctor, ensuring all rights are respected and no patient is abandoned.

Take Action

1000's of letters and emails have already been sent to Saskatchewan legislators since the start of our campaign in February of this year.  If you feel that preserving freedom of conscience is essential for every Canadian citizen, including our doctors and nurses, please be sure to visit;

Here you may fill out an on-line form that will send your concerns directly to ministers Reiter and Ottenbreit. Alternatively, you may wish to download and print a hard copy of the letter to mail in on your own using the following link;

The Coalition for HealthCARE and Conscience represents a group of like-minded organizations that are committed to protecting conscience rights for healthcare practitioners and facilities. They believe physician-assisted suicide goes against the very core of why their members became physicians, which is to help heal people or support them in their natural dying process.


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