Physicians and the Ontario Human Rights Code

John B. Shea
Catholic Insight
Sep 18th, 2008
© Copyright 1997-2006 Catholic Insight
Reproduced with Permission
Catholic Insight

The Revised Draft Policy of the Physicians' and the Ontario Human Rights Code tells us that freedom of religion is subject to such limitations as are necessary to protect public safety, order, health, moral or fundamental rights, or freedoms of others. Those principles appear to be generally applicable to circumstances in which a physician's religious beliefs conflict with a patient's need or desire for medical procedures or treatments.

The College of Physicians and Surgeons of Ontario offers these principles to physicians in order to indicate to them what principles may inform the decisions of Courts and Tribunals. The draft policy also states that physicians must comply with the Code when making any decision relating to providing medical services. The CPSO also warns that the Ontario Human Rights Commission or Tribunal may consider decisions to restrict medical services that are based on a physician's moral or religious beliefs contrary to the Code.

For Catholic physicians, the manner in which one acts in regard to the provision of medical care should be consistent with his of her informed conscience. That is to say, it should be consistent with the medical facts of the case and one's moral principles. Such principles in turn should be consistent with the natural law and our Judeo-Christian moral heritage. That heritage agrees with the fact that true religion must be consistent with human reason.

Even Aristotle and Cicero, over two thousand years ago, understood natural law as being human reason's understanding of divine law. Divine law was regarded as valid in all countries and at all times and human laws were regarded as valid only if consistent with divine law. This understanding was consistent with the Judeo-Christian heritage.

Since the Renaissance, the Enlightenment and the French Revolution (1789), a belief in God has waned and morality is now seen in the West as no longer a matter of objective fact or of divine origin, but only relative to the individual's belief. In order to avoid chaos, as warned against by Thomas Hobbes in 1657 in his work Leviathan, morality is arbitrarily dictated by the State and the Courts. Powerful societal elites, pandering to the public's endless desire for pleasure, have been so successful in obtaining and retaining power that we, in Canada, now actually live in a country that for all its undoubtedly good aspects, is effectively, in the area of morality, a totalitarian state. The activities of the Human Rights Commissions are merely the latest and most blatant manifestation of that fact.

The CPSO should not have simply indicated and warned us about the Commission's Code. They should have defended physicians against this blatant and arrogant assault on human dignity.

Alexander Solzhenitsyn, in his Address During Harvard Class-Day Afternoon Exercises, June 8, 1978, stated that a decline in civil courage may be the most striking feature an outside observer notices in the West today. This, he said, was particularly noticeable among the ruling groups and the intellectual elite in each country, each government, each political party, and at the United Nations. People are so reluctant, he said, to defend common values because of fear of the loss of their material goods, money, leisure, and the almost unlimited freedom of enjoyment, and even of the loss of life in defence of one's country and against aggressors and international terrorists.

Now is the time for the CPSO, other medical caregivers' organizations, and society at large, to stand up to totalitarianism and defend the dignity of all human beings.