Ontario court confirms that all patients have the right to equitable, non-discriminatory access to medical services

We welcome yesterday’s decision by Ontario’s Superior Court of Justice (Divisional Court) that doctors cannot put their personal religious beliefs ahead of patients’ rights to health care.

The Court rejected the argument by a number of physicians that the Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedoms gives them a legal right to refuse to provide their patients with meaningful access to lawful, clinically appropriate and often medically necessary health services on the basis that providing such health services did not align with their personal religious beliefs.

The Court confirmed that all Ontarians have a right to equitable access to medical services available through Ontario’s health care system.

HALCO, the Canadian HIV/AIDS Legal Network, and the Canadian Professional Association for Transgender Health (CPATH) jointly intervened in the case because legalizing such discrimination would have set an incredibly dangerous legal precedent with widespread, life-changing and damaging implications for people living in Ontario and the rest of Canada. Women, LGBTQI people, people living with HIV, and people living with disabilities, for example, would be most immediately and seriously affected if physicians are given the legal “right” to refuse care—and even to refuse to refer a patient for care by another physician—because of their personal, religious views. It is the antithesis of respect for patient autonomy and dignity, which are values that must be central in our law and in the practice of medicine.

Here are links to more information:


If you are living with HIV in Ontario and have concerns about this or any other legal issue, please contact us for free legal advice.

This post is also available as a pdf: www.halco.org/wp-content/uploads/2018/02/Patient-Rights-Superior-Court-decision-HALCO-announcement2018Feb.pdf.


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