In his September 23, 2015 article “Ontario doctors squeezed on conscientious objection to assisted suicide” , Michael Cook states that
“The legalisation of physician-assisted suicide in Canada after February’s decision by the Supreme Court is starting to affect doctors. The College of Physicians and Surgeons of Ontario has quietly issued a directive that conscientious objectors must help them find someone willing to do so.”
Mr. Cook also writes that such a directive requires unwilling doctors to make
“an effective referral to another health-care provider” defined as ‘a referral made in good faith, to a non-objecting, available, and accessible physician, other health-care professional, or agency’.”
“It was approved by College Council in March despite overwhelming opposition to the demand for ‘effective referral’.”
Personally and as a nurse, I could not refer for either abortion or physician-assisted suicide. Not only do I oppose these actions but I also don’t know any ethical or scandal-free organizations or practitioners that perform death procedures.
And does “mandated referral” also mean that I am forbidden to give any accurate but negative information about these procedures? Probably.
Here is what happened to nurses in Oregon after the physician-assisted suicide law took effect and even though the Oregon Nurses Association (ONA) is part of the American Nurses Association which opposes against assisted suicide.
The ONA’s 1997 guidelines on the “Role of the Registered Nurse in Assisted Suicide” states that
“ONA supports the patient’s right to self-determination and believes that nurses will and must play a primary role in end-of-life decisions.”
And here are some excerpts from that paper concerning those “Nurses Who Choose Not To Be Involved”:
According to the ONA, such nurses may:
“Conscientiously object to being involved in delivering care. You are obliged to provide for the patient’s safety, to avoid abandonment and withdraw only when assured that alternative sources of care are available to the patient.” (Emphasis added)
I faced such a situation myself years ago when I was told that there was no other nurse available when I refused to comply with a death decision. I was almost fired.
Furthermore, according to the position paper, such objecting Oregon nurses may not:
“Subject your patients or their families to unwarranted, judgmental comments or actions because of the patient’s choice to explore or select the option of assisted suicide.” (Emphasis added)
“Subject your peers or other health care team members to unwarranted, judgmental comments or actions because of their decision to continue to provide care to a patient who has chosen assisted suicide.
Abandon or refuse to provide comfort and safety measures to the patient.” (Emphasis added)
My point is that mandated referral must be opposed. It is just another kind of required participation and denial of conscience rights that is intended to silence the objections of doctors and nurses and even threaten their careers.
But above all, conscience rights protect patients and their right to safe health care.