Medical assistance in dying: the bill to protect the rights of doctors fails

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OTTAWA-

Nearly all Tory MPs voted for a bill they said would protect the conscience rights of healthcare professionals when it comes to medical assistance in dying.

The private member’s bill was defeated in the House of Commons on Wednesday by a vote of 203 to 115, despite the support of most Tories, including their new leader, Pierre Poilievre.

The bill was introduced by Kelly Block, a Conservative MP from rural Saskatchewan who hails from the social conservative wing of the party, which champions the issue of conscience rights.

The ruling Liberals and NDP and Bloc Québécois MPs voted against the bill, which sought to amend the Criminal Code to protect medical professionals from having to participate ‘directly or indirectly’ in medical aid to die.

The Conservatives got 114 votes in favor of the bill. The House of Commons website says no votes were cast for Melissa Lantsman, one of the party’s two deputy leaders, as well as MPs Eric Duncan, Dave Epp and Richard Martel.

Kevin Vuong, an Independent MP for the downtown Toronto riding of Spadina-Fort York, also backed Block’s bill and appears to be the only non-Conservative to do so.

Block’s proposal would have made it an offense to intimidate or fire a healthcare worker who refuses to provide medically assisted death or provide a referral for service.

The Liberal government has long asserted that there is nothing in its legislation that requires a medical professional to “provide or help provide” the procedure if it goes against their personal beliefs.

The Ontario Court of Appeal also ruled that allowing doctors to refuse to provide referrals would stigmatize already vulnerable patients and restrict their access to medical services.

Despite this, many Conservatives oppose the federal Liberal government’s management of its physician-assisted death regime and believe there are not enough protections in place for people in health care.

Block released a statement after Wednesday’s vote, saying there was growing concern among medical professionals that they “would be forced into” the proceedings, given plans for expansion.

Campaign Life Coalition, an anti-abortion organization that backs Tory MPs who also oppose the procedure, applauded Block’s proposal after it fell through on Wednesday.

Proponents of conscience rights have in the past made it clear that they believe they should apply to a range of medical services, including abortion and sex reassignment surgery.


This report from The Canadian Press was first published on October 5, 2022.

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