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Available Expert - Religious doctors must perform referrals for medically assisted death, ON court rules

Wednesday, January 31, 2018

Queen’s University bioethicist Udo Schuklenk is available to comment on the Ontario Divisional Court’s unanimous ruling that requiring religious doctors to refer patients to physicians willing to provide an assisted death is a reasonable limit on freedom of conscience.

“The Divisional Court took a step in the right direction,” says Dr. Schuklenk. “Eligible dying patients' right to access medical services that doctors have a delivery monopoly on must be protected against the unprofessional conduct of conscientiously objecting health care professionals.”

“It is doubtful that the Court's compromise solution – namely effective referral obligations – will work in practice,” he says. “Evidence from numerous surveys suggests that only the elimination of the conscientious objector accommodation in medicine will result in the reliable provision of professional medical services to eligible, help-seeking vulnerable patients.”

NOTE: Dr. Schuklenk is current Ontario Research Chair in Bioethics and the former Chair of the Royal Society of Canada Expert Panel on End-of-life Decision-Making in Canada. He has spoken at length on the ethical considerations of physician-assisted dying, including in a range of interviews, academic articles and on his blog.

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