Court rules doctors must write referrals regardless of religious beliefs

Ontario’s highest court says doctors must give referrals for medical treatments that may clash with their religious or moral beliefs.

According to The Canadian Press, a three-judge panel dismissed an appeal Wednesday seeking to overturn a divisional court decision that upheld the referral requirement.

The policy addresses services like assisted dying and abortion as the moral and religious beliefs of physicians may withhold patients from accessing them.
Doctors from different Christian and Catholic groups tried to appeal the policy.

The physicians say there is no evidence stating patients would be harmed by not getting a referral. However, the court advised them to pick a new specialty if they have a problem with it.

The divisional court says although the policy may infringe on doctors’ religious freedom, the needs of the public outweigh the cost to physicians and that suggesting people can simply find a new physician ignores the problems patients face who may be vulnerable or are living in remote areas.

They stated the doctors could “easily” switch jobs, perhaps to ones that are met with fewer moral conflicts.

The College of Physicians and Surgeons of Ontario said in documents that its policy aims to balance physicians’ beliefs with the need to ensure access to care.


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