In case you’ve missed it, there was recently a heated discussion raging over whether doctors who refuse to provide treatment on moral or religious grounds are protected under the Ontario Human Rights Code, and the Charter of Rights and Freedoms. While not a new issue, the recent brouhaha was related to an incident surrounding a 25-year-old Ontario woman who was unable to receive birth control at a walk-in clinic because the doctor on duty only provided one form of birth control, natural family planning, due to “medical judgement as well as professional ethical concerns and religious values.” The young woman left the clinic feeling “truly embarrassed” because of “something that someone thinks is shameful and not right.”
The College of Physicians and Surgeons of Ontario joined the debate and gave the public, professionals and other stakeholders an opportunity to answer the question: Do you think a physician should be allowed to refuse to provide a patient with a treatment or procedure because it conflicts with the physician’s religious or moral beliefs?
Physicians, the media, and the public at large cast their vote and added their comments, calling it everything from a gender issue, to a moral issue, to a health issue. I call it the thin edge of the wedge.