UPDATE: Court Rules Doctors Must Give Referrals for Services They Oppose

A historic decision on Wednesday by Ontario's highest court.

Doctors who don't believe in certain services such as Medical Assistance in Dying (MAID) or abortion, are now obligated to provide a referral to another healthcare professional.

Last year, the divisional court found that while the policy does infringe on doctors' religious freedom, the benefits to the public outweigh the cost to physicians.

According to Nicole Scheidl, the Executive Director of Physicians for Life, no other jurisdiction in the world takes the position that doctors must participate in the killing of their patients.

She tells AM800's The Lynn Martin Snow, a referral in the medical context is a very specific act.

"It is saying that I believe this treatment is necessary for you and will be to your benefit. So doctors with conscientious objections believe that killing their patients is bad and is not good for them so they don't want to refer, they don't want to be morally complicit in that.")

If a person's doctor doesn't feel comfortable giving the patient 'MAID', Scheidl says there are other ways for people to get the information themselves.

"They can call Tele-Health, they can access assessment services on their own - they don't need a doctor. It's become a problem that's probably not really necessary to be a problem but certainly the college of physicians and surgeons have taken the position that the referral was a necessary part of the way they wanted to go."

Scheidl says there has to be a better way to go about this and believes it doesn't have to be a clash or rights.

"We think there are ways to make the system set up so that there's room for everyone in the system. Currently, there are people who want doctors who will not give them a referral for MAID as a treatment option and they feel like they are facing doctors who are deciding whether their life is worth living or not."

In the appeal, a group of five doctors and three professional organizations argued the ruling was unreasonable because it gave more weight to an assumed problem with access to health care than to a real infringement of doctors' rights.

The court said doctors can ask their staff to provide a referral to another doctor who can provide the service, or choose to specialize in a type of medicine where these issues are less frequent.



— With files from The Canadian Press & AM800's The Lynn Martin Show