President of the Alberta Medical Association, Dr. Christine P. Molnar, has penned an open letter to Alberta’s Minister of Health expressing concern with the conscience health rights bill.
Molnar addressed her letter to Minister of Health Tyler Shandro and included Premier Jason Kenney, as well as Dan Williams, the Peace River MLA, who proposed the act on November 7, 2019.
The controversial Bill 207: Conscience Rights Protection Act, which came under fire online, allows healthcare providers to deny patients access to abortion, contraception, or medically assisted death based on their personal beliefs, including religious beliefs, moral and ethical values, and cultural traditions.
Molnar acknowledged that while the bill is not government-sponsored, it still raises some concerns.
“The bill has generated attention and anxiety among physicians and patients. This is regrettable since it is avoidable. From our perspective, the bill is unnecessary,” said Molnar in the letter.
The proposed legislation would also forbid Alberta’s healthcare regulators from imposing rules that would require clinicians to “make statements to any person or body that would infringe the healthcare provider’s conscientious beliefs,” and also exempt doctors from the responsibility of having to refer patients to other providers in the event they were denied a service without facing repercussion.
“The more serious issue is that the bill may have unintended consequences in limiting patient access to services,” said Molnar.
“For physicians, the current state protects conscience rights, while also ensuring that patients are given information or referral to allow them to pursue access to the desired service. This arrangement has served Albertans well and should be maintained.”
Bill 207 would also protect the providers from facing punitive action from health regulators in the province for denying services.
“There are already protections in place for healthcare providers. Respecting physicians, the process currently in place under standards of the College of Physicians & Surgeons of Alberta is appropriate and effective. From this perspective at least, Bill 207 is redundant and potentially confusing,” continued Molnar.