‘This encourages patient abandonment’: Edmontonians rally against Bill 207 at Alberta legislature

Several hundred people gathered at the Alberta legislature Saturday, protesting the controversial Bill 207, the so-called “conscience rights” bill.

“It’s a risky and slippery slope when you talk about providing people a right to discriminate,” said Sandra Azocar, executive director of Friends of Medicare.

The bill, which has now passed first reading, was introduced in the legislature by Peace River United Conservative Party MLA Dan Williams, and is aimed at reasserting the Charter-protected freedom of conscience and religion for health providers.

If passed, health care providers would be allowed to refuse service to any individual based on conscience, including religious beliefs, moral and ethical values and cultural traditions.

Many have concerns about the bill, including what it could do to reproductive services, like access to abortion and birth control pills, or that it could create new barriers for LGBTQ2 people accessing healthcare.

“We want to send them a clear message that this is a discriminatory bill, and it is an unnecessary bill, and it will cause a great deal of harm to a lot of Albertans,” Azocar said.

Azocar also added that she believes the current system already protects conscientious rights. The current provincial standards say that if a provider, like a doctor or pharmacist, is “prevented” by their religious or conscience beliefs from providing access to information or services, they must ensure the patient is offered an effective, timely referral.

The new bill doesn’t have any specifications about referrals.

Some of Saturday’s demonstrators were also concerned about dying with dignity and assisted-suicide access.

“If Bill 207 passes, this encourages patient abandonment, this encourages bad behavior,” said Bradley Peter, the Edmonton chapter co-chair of Dying With Dignity Canada.

Peter said he is also concerned that Bill 207 would give institutions the right to refuse.

Last year, Covenant Health came under fire and put forward new guidelines, after a patient was forced to hold a medically-assisted-dying-assessment on a busy sidewalk outside of the hospital.

Since Covenant Health is a faith-based health organization, it does not offer medically-assisted dying services at its hospitals, but is legally bound to help arrange for patients to access them elsewhere.

But there are concerns Bill 207 could change that.

“We currently have practices in Covenant Health where patients are forced out of facilities to die, because Covenant Health has decided they don’t support assisted dying,” Peter said.

“This is the type of behavior that Bill 207 is encouraging.”

Source: Read Full Article