Saskatoon

Sask. College of Physicians defer decision on refusing care on religious grounds

Members of Saskatchewan's College of Physicians and Surgeons have deferred voting on a controversial topic.

Members of Saskatchewan College of Physicians and Surgeons want more time for decision

Members of the College of Physicians and Surgeons have deferred voting on a policy on doctors refusing care based on ethical or religious grounds. (Carl Court/Getty Images)

Members of Saskatchewan's College of Physicians and Surgeons have deferred voting on a controversial topic.

At this month's meeting, the College's council was reviewing a draft policy that dealt with doctors refusing care based on ethical or religious grounds. That includes refusing to provide care on abortions, genetic testing and blood transfusions.

The draft policy would not force doctors to perform any medical procedures, except in emergency, life-threatening situations. It would, however, force them to refer patients to another doctor or nurse practitioner for more advice on the topic.

The policy also notes that, "physicians must not promote their own moral or religious beliefs when interacting with a patient."

Doctors at the meeting said they hadn't had enough time to review the policy, which was first drafted in January, then revised.

The motion, unsurprisingly, sparked considerable debate at the council table among doctors.

"This is a very serious topic," said Bryan Salte, associate registrar of the College of Physicians and Surgeons. "There are people who feel very strongly about this. And there are people who feel very strongly about this from both perspectives."

Salte said the College received thousands of pieces of mail on the subject.

"If you look at the consultation information, you will see physicians who say you're infringing my rights, you have no right to do this, I have a charter right, and I cannot be compelled to do what you want me to do," he said. "There are others who said this doesn't go far enough, and it is simply unacceptable for physicians to not provide birth control, and every physician who is in that environment has to."

A similar policy in Ontario is currently the focus of a charter challenge by the Christian Medical and Dental Society of Canada and the Canadian Federation of Catholic Physicians' Societies.

Ontario lawyer Albertos Polizogopoulos said offering a referral to another doctor violates his clients' religious rights. He also said a policy like this would drive doctors from the medical field.

"The physicians and the upcoming physicians in the medical schools will be faced with one of two options," he said. "They either comply with the policy, and they make a referral for a procedure or a pharmaceutical to which they object on moral or religious grounds, which would mean they violate their religious beliefs or their conscience, or secondly, they don't comply with the policy, and they choose not to violate their religious beliefs and they face disciplinary action from the college."

Saskatchewan's draft policy will be reviewed at the College's meeting on Saturday. It will then be circulated to members and voted on at the its next meeting in January.

Comments

To encourage thoughtful and respectful conversations, first and last names will appear with each submission to CBC/Radio-Canada's online communities (except in children and youth-oriented communities). Pseudonyms will no longer be permitted.

By submitting a comment, you accept that CBC has the right to reproduce and publish that comment in whole or in part, in any manner CBC chooses. Please note that CBC does not endorse the opinions expressed in comments. Comments on this story are moderated according to our Submission Guidelines. Comments are welcome while open. We reserve the right to close comments at any time.