THE CATHOLIC ORGANIZATION FOR LIFE AND FAMILY’S RESPONSE TO THE DRAFT POLICY OF THE COLLEGE OF PHYSICIANS AND SURGEONS OF ONTARIO
“PROFESSIONAL OBLIGATIONS AND HUMAN RIGHTS”
Freedom of conscience and of religion are guaranteed by
By requiring Ontario doctors to provide information about and to facilitate access to procedures which they judge to be gravely immoral—and not in the best interest of their patients—the CPSO’s proposed policy would replace the supremacy of conscience with that of a self-appointed authority functioning outside the sphere of its competence. Let us recall that the medical establishment has often proposed practices which it subsequently repudiated—lobotomy and electric shock treatment to name two of many. The humanization of medicine has come about largely as the result of the efforts of doctors who have found themselves unable, as a matter of conscience, to uphold the medical orthodoxy du jour.
To suggest that any particular practitioner should be compelled to act in a way which contradicts his or her conscience, is to call into question the collective rights of conscience of medical practitioners in general. Taken to its logical conclusion, this position would negate any role the medical establishment itself might legitimately play in determining the ethical acceptability of a given medical procedure.
The Catholic Church articulates the necessity of upholding this universally recognized right of freedom of conscience and religion as follows: “. . . the freedom of conscience of all people, whatever their religion or philosophy of life” is to be defended; “no person [is to be] forced to act against conscience or be prevented from acting according to conscience”. Requiring medical doctors to bracket concerns informed by their particular religious or ethical views violates this fundamental principle. Furthermore, in the context of healthcare, it also risks turning them into mere dispensers of medical services whose good in a given situation is determined by persons other than themselves.
Human experience clearly demonstrates that “the effective recognition of the right to freedom of conscience and religious freedom is one of the highest goods and one of the most serious duties of every people that truly wishes to ensure the good of the individual and of society.”3 For all of these reasons we ask the
4 February 2015
COLF is co-sponsored by the Canadian Conference of Catholic Bishops and the Supreme Council of the Knights of
Catechism of the Catholic Church, no. 1800
Dignitatis Humanae (On the Right of the Person and of Communities to Social and Civil Freedom in Matters Religious, Promulgated by His Holiness Pope Paul VI, 7 December 1965), no. 3.
Compendium of the Social Doctrine of the Catholic Church, no. 553.