A Victory for the Rights of Vulnerable Patients

January 31, 2018

Today, an important decision for a patient’s right to equal access to health care was handed down by Ontario’s Divisional Court. The Court upheld the requirement that physicians who conscientiously object to a medical procedure – such as medical assistance in dying or reproductive health services – must refer patients to physicians willing to provide the medical care at issue.

CCLA intervened in the case, The Christian Medical and Dental Society of Canada v College of Physicians and Surgeons of Ontario, to fight for the rights of vulnerable patients. We argued that physicians should be responsible for ensuring that patients receive effective referrals due to the need to protect the rights of patients to equal access to health care.

The Divisional Court’s unanimous decision echoed CCLA’s submissions at several points, including in its concern that failures to provide an effective referral would shame and stigmatize patients seeking a public service and would risk denying health care to “vulnerable persons, including particular individuals who are homeless, have linguistic or cultural barriers, have economic constraints in terms of travel, have intellectual disabilities, or experience a lack of confidence after being told by their physician that the service they seek is morally repugnant.”

The CCLA was represented in this case by Rahool Agarwal and Kate Findlay at Norton Rose Fulbright Canada LLP.

CCLA’s factum is available here.

The decision can be found here.