Conscience rights for Canadian nurses and Physician assistants are being trampled by their professional bodies

Alex Schadenberg, Executive Director, Euthanasia Prevention Coalition

CAPAlogoThe Canadian Association of Physician Assistants (CAPA) has advised its members that they are not required to directly participate in physician assisted death (euthanasia and assisted suicide) but that they are required to refer the patient to someone who will directly participate.

Physician Assistants work under a supervising physician and therefore do not have the freedom to decide to work with a certain group of patients. According to the CAPA website:

The PA’s scope of practice is determined on an individual basis and formally outlined in a practice contract or agreement between the supervising physician(s), the PA and often the facility or service where the PA will work.

Therefore CAPA is not protecting the conscience rights of its members by forcing them to participate in euthanasia when ordered by a doctor.

In the same manner, there is the Ontario Nurses Association (ONA) interim guidelines on Physician-Assisted Death (euthanasia and assisted suicide). The guidelines states:

health care professionals who have conscientious objections should refer or transfer a client to another health care provider. If no other caregiver can be arranged, you must provide the immediate care required.

Based on the guidelines for Physician assistants and the Ontario Nurses Association guidelines, medical professionals, who work “under the direction of physicians” have not had their conscience rights protected by their medical bodies.

The right of conscience is essential for these groups of medical professionals because they do not have the absolute freedom of choosing what patient group that they will work with and they usually work under another medical professional.

Instead of subverting conscience rights, the Canadian Association of Physician Assistants and the Ontario Nurses Association should be working diligently to respect the rights of their members.

Editor’s note. This appeared at alexschadenberg.blogspot.com and is reprinted with permission.