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Doctors mustn't discriminate

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September 6, 2008

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Letter to the National Post published:
Saturday, September 06, 2008.

Re: A Handmaid's Tale, Lorne Gunter, Sept. 2; Doctors, Dignity And HRCs, letter, Sept. 3.

The Ontario Human Rights Commission's role is to speak out on issues that can lead to discrimination. We know from complaints and media accounts that some individuals are being denied public health services because of their race, faith, age, gender, sexual orientation and other grounds under Ontario's Human Rights Code. That's why we are pleased the College of Physicians and Surgeons of Ontario has drafted an anti-discrimination policy for its members.

I agree with Dr. Susan Piccinin's examples in her letter to the editor on how she handles delicate situations. Like other professionals, doctors are entitled to make decisions about the services they offer based on their clinical competence. And, doctors, like patients, are also entitled to accommodation of their religious beliefs as much as possible. In some situations, like a medical clinic, it might be appropriate to refer a patient on to another professional who will help them. But patients should not have to shop around for medical treatment they were denied for non-clinical discriminatory reasons.

Barbara Hall
Chief Commissioner
Ontario Human Rights Commission