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Prince George psychiatrist wins legal challenge over vaccine refusal

Dr. David Morgan based decision on being in good health and working with patients virtually which "eliminated any risk of transmission of the virus" 
This undated electron microscope image made available by the U.S. National Institutes of Health in February 2020 shows the virus that causes COVID-19. THE CANADIAN PRESS/NIAID-RML via AP

A B.C. Supreme Court Justice has decided in favour of a psychiatrist who lost his job at the Prince George Youth Forensic Clinic because he refused to get vaccinated against COVID-19.

In a decision issued Friday, Justice Simon Coval ordered the provincial health officer to reconsider the firing of healthcare workers who were able to perform their roles remotely or in person but without contact with patients, resident, clients or co-workers.  

Among them was Dr. David Morgan, who petitioned the court after he was terminated from his role at the clinic in December 2021, where he assessed and treated youths in the criminal justice system.

He was also the regional clinical director for northern British Columbia, where he participated in establishing goals for the Ministry’s Youth Forensic Psychiatrist Services.

According to Coval, Morgan deposed to providing “100% of the assessment, management, and treatment of my patients virtually which eliminated any risk of transmission of the virus … When I questioned the basis for [my termination], I was informed that … I might be asked to see a patient in-person in the future, despite the fact that I had not done so for an extended period of time, and that it is simply not necessary in my practice."

Morgan was among 14 healthcare worker who petitioned the court. 

Grounds for their petitions variously ranged from whether the virus still posed an “an immediate and significant risk” by October 2023, to whether unvaccinated healthcare workers posed any greater risk to vulnerable patients or the healthcare system generally, to whether their Charter rights were violated and whether healthcare workers who worked remotely needed to be vaccinated. 

In response, the PHO submitted the orders were reasonable to reduce the risk of transmission of COVID-19 in hospitals and other healthcare settings, that the medical and scientific information continued to support the vaccine's effectiveness and justified continued use of the PHO's emergency powers, and that Charter rights do not extend to the ability to practice a profession without complying with its rules and regulations

Coval agreed with the PHO's responses with one "limited exception," and found a lack of justification to support the decision not to consider requests for exemptions for healthcare workers working remotely.

In June 2020, Morgan jointly filed a petition with a surgeon at Vancouver General Hospital and a registered nurse and patient care coordinator at Langley Memorial Hospital.

"He decided not to accept the vaccine based on his assessment of the risks and benefits given his personal circumstances, particularly that he was in good health and had likely already contacted and recovered from the virus," Coval said. "He has maintained a full-time private psychiatry practice and his role as a clinical assistant professor in UBC’s Faculty of Forensic Psychiatry."