On conscience rights legislation

November 13, 2019

Dr. Christine P. Molnar, AMA President

Dear Members:

On November 7, a United Conservative Party MLA tabled a private members bill: Bill 207, Conscience Rights (Health Care Providers) Protection Act.

I wanted you to know that I have written to Minister of Health Tyler Shandro, to express the opinion that this legislation is unnecessary and inappropriate. You can review my letter here.

I have been hearing from many of you regarding issues in my recent President’s Letters. Please keep the input coming. You can reach me in the following ways:

  • Communicate with me privately and directly by email if you would like a reply: president@albertadoctors.org
  • Comment publicly below on this President’s Letter (please be aware that comments are public, i.e., not members-only, even if you are logged in as a member).

In your service,

Christine P. Molnar, MD, FRCPC
President, Alberta Medical Association

35 comments

Commenting on this page is closed.

  • #1

    Frederick

    Physician

    2:01 PM on November 13, 2019

    Dear Christine,
    Although I am a long term supporter of the conservative government, I am disappointed that the UCP appointed a lawyer with no medical background/experience to be the health minister (nothing personal) - there he goes and starts making new laws that affect the doctors negatively. All to make political points! He should realize that doctors "vote with their feet" and will leave if the negativity continues. Your diplomatic letter is good but I think the AMA should take a much more aggressive stance towards this type of attitude from the government. Doctors feel abused and neglected; we feel everything is about patients and nobody cares about us! Do we have any rights at all??

  • #2

    Maryana Apel

    Physician

    2:20 PM on November 13, 2019

    Freedom of consciousness is one of the indelible freedoms our forefathers fought hard for. It is a cornerstone of the western civilization. Regardless of one's profession, religion, creed or breed, it is our to protect and cherish.

    Hence I fully support our UCP government that makes sure of healthcare providers being guaranteed this basic constitutional right everyone else possess.

  • #3

    Irvin Mayers

    Physician

    3:57 PM on November 13, 2019

    A physician's rights to practice as his/her conscience dictates is already well protected in Alberta. More important than a physician's right is a patient's right to obtain legally mandated services regardless of who is providing the care. This bill would allow institutions to also act within "their conscience". This may further restrict patient's rights depending on what organization runs the institution where they are receiving care. There are many "hot button" issues and up until now the province has balanced the issues carefully. The bill is pandering to an narrow ideological agenda that has little to do with physician rights and much to do with a sense of misplaced religiosity. We need to all do our jobs to the best of our abilities and provide the care our patients need and expect.

  • #4

    David Loewen

    Physician

    4:29 PM on November 13, 2019

    This legislation is neither redundant nor unnecessary as suggested in this letter. Current college standards in Ontario require effective referral forcing physicians to act against their conscience. Other colleges may follow suit including in Alberta. The province of Manitoba certainly felt it necessary when it passed similar legislation earlier this year. Contrary to comments in this letter, conscience protection does not threaten access to service. Our president ought to be more careful in forwarding letters such as this without having broader consultation with the membership.

  • #5

    Alana

    Physician

    4:56 PM on November 13, 2019

    Thank-you for standing up on our behalf (and on patients’ behalf!!) on this important issue. If this bill gains any traction it could lead to a very slippery slope. To add a little irony a la Modest Proposal, if such a law were to pass, I would be well within my rights to conscientiously object to providing care to any person for any reason, as long as I cite my religious beliefs. That is what would be unconscionable in a supposedly rational and reasonable society.

  • #6

    Darrel Eliason

    Physician

    5:03 PM on November 13, 2019

    I see “Bill 207, Conscience Rights (Health Care Providers) Protection Act” as being both helpful to physicians and patients and am disappointed in the view expressed by the President implying that reinforcing such protection is in any way inappropriate or unnecessary.

  • #7

    W

    Physician

    6:11 PM on November 13, 2019

    Protecting the physicians' conscience sounds like a good thing to me.

    Also I do not recall Dr. Molnar seeking the opinions of the AMA members on this. When she signs the letter "Christine P. Molnar, MD, FRCPC
    President, Alberta Medical Association" when she's expressing her personal opinion, it can give the false impression that it's the official consensus opinions of AMA. That seems like an "inappropriate" use of her office and title.

  • #8

    Marthinus Strydom

    Physician

    6:15 PM on November 13, 2019

    I am in agreement with the short comment provided by Dr. Apel.
    As a physician, I want the right to accept or reject propositions or involvement in activities I might, or might not be, in agreement with. If the AMA is of the opinion that the certain types of services or activities are a basic right for each patient or citizen in Alberta then a list of interested physician providers should be publicly available for each person to access without required referral.
    That way patients have access and physicians have autonomy.
    I do not think the current system is as rosy as Dr. Molnar is attempting to suggest. The current system, in my opinion, in reality provides no autonomy to patient (who realistically needs authorization of his/hers choice) or physician (who is forced to be involved even though some might consider it minimal involvement). The current system (Standard of Practice rules) is a forced involvement for those that disagrees on moral principles.

  • #9

    Wayne Burton

    Physician

    8:04 PM on November 13, 2019

    The motivation behind Bill 207 is a worthwhile cause. There are thousands of physicians who are put into situations where they are being asked or required to act in a way entirely contrary to their core beliefs, religious or otherwise. Whether being asked to be complicit in the killing of an unborn child, intentionally ending the life of another adult, promoting sexual mutilation of a minor at their parent's request or many other actions, there need to be protections for these physicians. Certainly their careers or their privileges do not need to be at risk due to overzealous regulatory practices or lawyers. I certainly intend to review the current AMA policies that claim to already provide protections and I hope that they do, but these days you can't be too specific with penalties and attorneys waiting at the door. There should always be a balance of needs for those receiving and providing health care.

  • #10

    Nicole

    Member of the public

    8:15 PM on November 13, 2019

    When the Canadian Council of Academies reported on MAiD at the end of December last year, they noted that it would be valuable to support those in the healthcare field who conscientiously object to causing death. The panel recognized that people who value moral integrity would be discouraged from participating in the healthcare fields if they were left unprotected. There are lots of pressures on physicians and other healthcare professionals and it is important to respect their moral integrity and develop systems that support them. This avoids burnout and actually means there are more physicians in the system and better access for patients. I think Bill 207 is a positive step in the right direction and places the onus on the system - not individual doctors - to ensure patient access.

The AMA advances patient-centered, quality care by advocating for and supporting physician leadership and wellness.