Annual Report 2017 - Page 20

Access to Care The College vigorously defended patients’ rights to access care when it fought a court challenge that was brought against its effective referral requirement. The College requires that physicians who do not want to provide a medical service for reasons of conscience or religion establish a mechanism to connect their patients with an available, non-objecting health care provider with whom the patient can explore all options (“effective referral”). The Challenge against the College’s expectations of physicians was initiated by the Christian Medical and Dental Society of Canada, The Canadian Federation of Catholic Physicians’ Societies, Canadian Physicians for Life as well as five other individual physicians. We argued that our two policies - Professional Obligations and Human Rights and Medical Assistance in Dying – balances patients’ rights to access all health services with any physician’s conscience or religious beliefs. Although an effective referral does not guarantee a patient will receive a treatment, it ensures access to care and demonstrates respect for patient autonomy. In a unanimous decision released in January 2018, the Superior Court of Justice supported patients’ rights to access health services and the CPSO’s effective referral requirement. “The goal of ensuring access to healthcare, in particular equitable access to healthcare, is pressing and substantial. The effective referral requirements of the Policies are rationally connected to the goal. The requirements impair the Individual Applicant’s right of religious freedom as little as reasonably possible in order to achieve the goal,” states the decision. “This is a win for vulnerable patients,” stated the College Registrar. CPSO ANNUAL REPORT 2017 // page 20