October 20th, 2020

Bill 207 also benefits patients

By Lethbridge Herald Opinon on November 21, 2019.

Enhanced protections for conscience rights would be a boon to health-care system

Andre Schutten, John Sikkema and Anna Nienhuis

Recently, Alberta MLA Dan Williams tabled Bill 207, the “Conscience Rights Protection Act.” It would protect both individual health-care providers and health-care facilities from being required to provide services that conflict with their religious or conscientious beliefs, ethical judgment or cultural traditions.

One of the bill’s stated purposes is to provide certainty to health-care providers and religious health-care organizations with respect to exercising their Charter-protected freedoms of conscience and religion. This is greatly needed in a time when both individual providers and religious health-care organizations face pressure to provide or facilitate access to services that conflict with their core beliefs, not to mention longstanding principles of medical ethics.

Of course, Bill 207 does not release health service providers and organizations from any and all professional obligations. It is not a licence to abandon patients. We expect the bill to be attacked in this way, with the implicit assumption that religious health-care providers would be ready and willing to abandon patients, leaving vulnerable, sick people to find themselves a new health-care provider. But that is not the case. It means only that a particular service need not be provided or facilitated (such as by referring the patient to a willing euthanasia provider) by the conscientiously objecting provider.

We can all understand why conscience rights matter to doctors – they want the freedom to practise medicine in a way that does not conflict with their moral or religious beliefs. They want to do medicine as they believe they ought to do medicine.

But respecting health-care providers’ conscience rights is good for the health-care system as a whole. First of all, not respecting conscience rights limits the number of people who will enter or remain in a health profession. If practising medicine required being willing to perform abortions or euthanize patients, for example, people with ethical commitments in line with the Hippocratic Oath and strong consciences would count themselves out. But surely, these are the type of people we want in medicine.

Effectively excluding such people from the medical profession would cause care facilities run by Catholics, Evangelicals, Jews and others to shut down, as would requiring such facilities to provide ethically objectionable services (such as “medical aid in dying”). Yet many people wish to be cared for by organizations and individuals with strong commitments to the sanctity of life.

For any patient, religious or not, knowing that her doctor will never provide or recommend euthanasia can give a patient a sense of peace that their life is valued by their doctor. Likewise, a pregnant woman may wish to be cared for by a doctor who values the life of her pre-born child, despite any prenatal diagnosis the child may receive. In contrast, knowing that your doctor is willing to be your or your preborn child’s executioner may cause a loss of trust in the relationship.

Conscience rights are never challenged when a doctor recommends diet and exercise for a patient who demands liposuction, or when a doctor refuses to do a circumcision, a tongue splitting, or an elective amputation. Doctors regularly advise patients on the best course of action for their health, and patients may disagree. Yet, there is no consequence for a doctor in these cases. Rather, conscience rights tend to be challenged when it comes to politically charged treatments, where activists demand conformity and bristle at disapproval. If a doctor refuses to assist with suicide or abortion, or recommends counselling instead of a penectomy for a gender dysphoric male, suddenly his judgment is questioned.

The fact that conscience rights have become so politically charged should concern us all. We must not treat doctors and nurses like vending machines. A doctor is not a mere service provider on demand. A doctor is a person, and a professional. His or her professional advice is based on their education, experience, and best judgment, all of which are grounded in their moral convictions.

Bill 207 permits doctors to act with integrity in the Alberta health-care system. Where health-care providers are free to think and act according to their professional medical opinion without political interference, we are more likely to avoid groupthink and (im)moral conformity within these professions. This is good not only for health-care providers, but also for patients, who are better off in a health-care system that welcomes practitioners with solid ethical convictions and strong consciences.

Andre Schutten and John Sikkema are constitutional lawyers with ARPA Canada. Anna Nienhuis is research director with WeNeedaLAW.ca.

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This is not driven by doctors wanting freedom. The authors of this opinion piece and the organisation they are with want to use the government to further their brand of political christianity.
Bill 207 was crafted ignoring the professional organization representing doctors’ interests. Here is what the Alberta Medical Association thinks about Bill 207:
“There are already protections in place for health care providers. Respecting physicians, the process currently in place under standards of the College of Physicians & Surgeons of Alberta is appropriate and effective. From this perspective at least, Bill 207 is redundant and potentially confusing.
The more serious issue is that the bill may have unintended consequences in limiting patient access to services. For physicians, the current state protects conscience rights, while also ensuring that patients are given information or referral to allow them to pursue access to the desired service. This arrangement has served Albertans well and should be maintained.”
13 November 2019 by Dr Christine Molnar (President AMA) from a letter to Jason Kenney et al.


The World Medical Association is “firmly opposed to euthanasia and physician-assisted suicide” and declared in 2019 “No physician should be forced to participate in euthanasia or assisted suicide, nor should any physician be obliged to make referral decisions to this end.” Is the WMA driven by a “brand of political christianity” ?


The standards of the College of Physicians & Surgeons is already consistent with the WMA. What the government is doing by passing legislation is to serve religious interests, not the interests of doctors (already served by their appropriate professional organisation) nor patients’ interests obviously.
It is also notable that ARPA whose interests this letter serves claim that they are a “Christian political advocacy organization” devoted to bring the bible to civil government, and bringing “Reformed Christians to political action”. Sounds a lot like political christianity to me, and just one brand to boot.
The other author is affiliated with “weneedalaw.ca” which lobbies in favour of government passing laws against the rights of women and their physician to make decisions about pregnancy.


Thank you for countering this false narrative with the facts, The authors of this op-ed have ulterior motives. Those motives include forcing others to suffer. ARPA is a group that seeks to take Charter Rights,

Fortunately, it was voted down in committee.

Dennis Bremner

I am rather enjoying watching as the X and Y generation takes over the planet. Suddenly everything is a crisis. Everyone has never ending rights and everyone should ignore any religious doctrine if it doesn’t fit the X/Y cult party pack. We have an X leading Canada and at best he cannot figure out whether he should be dressed like a clown or what outfit to wear for every occasion. His greatest personal crisis is whether he should have an XBox a Nintendo or a Wii . He cries on que, he compensates everyone (except military) back to when Christ was a Cowboy because they were offended, are offended, or will be offended. The Religious Left and Right can’t figure out who should get what but one thing is for certain, we should not impinge on a Doctor’s right to do as he wishes when it comes to deciding your fate, because of his religion but we can’t quite let a woman decide what to do with her fate/fetus because the Bible says though shall not kill, right? But we are all familiar with other passages of the bible that suddenly are ignored because , the bible suddenly isn’t fair anymore.
So as we enter this new screwed up interpretation of what life will be like led by the planets airheads, one has to sit back and enjoy what is unfolding because so far every decision is made out of sheer comedy/panic and whether its “trending or not”.
The right to life supercedes all, so if you happen to be an X/Y that tries to off him/herself everyday because they like trying new drugs , then we will save you everyday (sometimes 7 times a day). If a woman is violated, tough, cuz the nutbar society says so. Planet is dying, lets stop oil in pipelines because Trains are better?? So even though you heat your home with a derivative and drive to your picket lines instead of a job with the very stuff you hate, you can’t quite see how the planet has to run because it conflicts with what is trending on FB or Twitter… oh what to do, what to do????

Sheer is another clear example of an Xer. He can’t figure out what he is for, or against, when asked! The only way he can know for sure, is to consult his FB and twitter page to find out what he thinks he should believe, today! lol
Honest, I wake up every morning a much happier person because of the “new knee jerk ideas” the X/Ys are coming up with to solve the problems of the world! This from a group who can’t even sort out what gender they are! Its a real treat and I am in awe! lol

OK Boomer