The Alberta legislature is considering a private member’s bill that would protect freedom of conscience for individual health care providers and health care facilities. Brought forward by MLA [Member of the Legislative Assembly] Dan Williams, Bill 207 is designed to give health care providers security to act according to their conscience in their professional capacity.
We all have the Charter protected right to freedom of conscience, but it is becoming essential for healthcare professionals to have more explicit protection. They need to feel free from undue pressure on issues that have a politically charged nature. We don’t want them referring for an abortion that they assess a woman is being emotionally coerced into or offering euthanasia to a depressed elderly person. We also don’t want to force health care providers to provide or refer for these services they may be morally opposed to. This conscience protection bill aims to reinforce the professional freedom of conscience for health care providers and should be supported.
Health care providers have professional obligations. These include respect for patients and ensuring patient care and safety is the highest priority. It also includes taking responsibility for their own behavior and ethical conduct regardless of the circumstances. This includes ensuring that no patient is abandoned. The conscience protection in this bill does not change these obligations. It means only that a health care provider may need to provide accurate information about a patient’s options but does not need to provide or facilitate a service that he or she conscientiously objects to.