Professional Obligations and Human Rights (Consultation Closed)

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    The deadline to provide feedback is February 20th, 2015.

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    Recently, the National Post published a commentary that falsely attributed the following statement to a College spokesperson: “Physicians unwilling to provide or facilitate abortion for reasons of conscience should not be family physicians.” This quote is categorically false, and misrepresents the College’s expectations of physicians who limit the health services they provide on moral or religious grounds. The College has asked the National Post to publish the letter below to correct this false statement and to clarify the College’s position. Read the letter here.

    Our Process

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    The Physicians and the Ontario Human Rights Code policy is currently under review.  A revised draft policy with the new title of Professional Obligations and Human Rights has been approved by Council for external consultation.  The draft policy sets out physicians’ existing legal obligations under the Ontario Human Rights Code (the “Code”), and the College’s expectation that physicians will respect the fundamental rights of those who seek their medical services.  The draft policy also sets out the College’s expectations for physicians who limit the health services they provide due to their personal values and beliefs.

    View the draft policy

    We are inviting feedback on the draft policy from all stakeholders, including members of the medical profession, other health professionals, interested organizations, and the public. Comments received during this consultation will assist in developing a final policy which will be considered for final approval by Council.


    We want to hear your thoughts on the revised draft policy…



    The Physicians and the Ontario Human Rights Code policy, which was first approved by Council in September 2008, is currently under review in accordance with the College’s policy review cycle.  A Working Group of  Council Members has been struck to undertake this policy review.

    The policy review process was informed by an extensive research review, public polling, and a preliminary external consultation on the current policy.  During the preliminary consultation period, feedback was received from a broad range of stakeholders including physician members, the public, medical regulators and professional associations, as well as advocacy, religious and patient groups.

    The Working Group considered all of the research and feedback obtained, and developed a newly titled draft policy: Professional Obligations and Human Rights

    Key Features of the Revised Draft

    In light of research undertaken and feedback received, the draft policy has been restructured to provide further detail around physicians’ professional and legal obligations to provide health services without discrimination, and the manner in which these obligations are to be fulfilled.

    Furthermore, the policy expectations are consistent with the principles and values of medical professionalism as articulated in the College’s Practice Guide, particularly the professional duty to act in the patient’s best interests and to facilitate equal access to care.

    The key revisions and additions reflected in the draft policy include the following:

        • The draft policy has been updated to reflect the addition of two new protected grounds of discrimination under the Ontario Human Rights Code – gender identity and gender expression.
        • The draft policy clarifies that the legal duty to refrain from discrimination under the Ontario Human Rights Code includes a duty to accommodate patient needs, where a disability or other personal circumstance may impede access to care.
        • The draft policy sets expectations for physicians who limit the health services they provide due to their own clinical competence or on moral or religious grounds.
        • The draft requires physicians, who choose to limit the health services they provide on moral or religious grounds, to do so in a manner that respects patient dignity, ensures access to care, and protects patient safety.
        • As part of ensuring access to care for patients, the draft policy requires that physicians, who are unwilling to provide certain elements of care due to their moral or religious beliefs, refer the patient to another health-care provider.
        • In order to protect patient safety, the draft policy requires that physicians provide care that is urgent or otherwise necessary to prevent imminent harm, suffering, and/or deterioration, even where that care conflicts with their religious or moral beliefs.

    Have Your Say

    We would like to hear your thoughts on the draft policy.

    In particular, your views on the following would be helpful:

        • Does the draft policy provide useful guidance?
        • Are there any issues not included in the draft policy that should be addressed? If so, what are they?
        • Are there other ways in which the draft policy should be improved?

    Please provide your feedback by February 20th, 2015.

    Next Steps

    The College is committed to ensuring that the draft policy reflects current practice issues, embodies the values and duties of medical professionalism, and is consistent with the College’s mandate to protect the public. The feedback obtained during this consultation will be carefully reviewed and used to evaluate the draft policy. While it may not be possible to ensure that every comment or suggested edit will be incorporated into the final policy, all comments will be carefully considered.

    Final decisions regarding policy revisions are made by College Council. Once a final draft has been approved, a copy will be posted on this page as well as the College’s website.

    To ensure transparency, the College will post all consultation feedback in accordance with our posting guidelines.

    We value your feedback and thank you again for participating in our policy review process.


    View feedback

    View the feedback received to date

    Send us your feedback by mail:

    College of Physicians and Surgeons of Ontario
    80 College Street
    Toronto, Ontario

    Attention: Policy Department