Canadian doctors preparing for ‘all eventualities’ in case top court strikes down ban on assisted suicide

National Post

Sharon Kirkey

The nation’s largest doctors’ group is quietly preparing for possible changes in federal laws governing physician-assisted death, as support among its own members for medical aid in dying grows.

The Canadian Medical Association has consulted medical associations in jurisdictions around the world where euthanasia or assisted suicide is legal to devise possible protocols for Canada if the federal law is changed.

The powerful doctors’ lobby says it would be na├»ve not to prepare for “all eventualities” as the country awaits a Supreme Court of Canada ruling over whether the federal prohibition outlawing assisted suicide is unconstitutional.

“I think we’re looking at the possibility that the court will refer this back to the lawmakers,” said Dr. Jeff Blackmer, the CMA’s director of ethics.

The Supreme Court could strike down Canada’s ban on assisted suicide and give Parliament one year to craft new legislation, as it did with prostitution.

“They could suggest some framework from the bench that we might want to be in a position to comment on fairly quickly. Or there could be a long period for reflection and committee hearings that we would want to be prepared for,” Blackmer said. “We’re preparing for all eventualities, and that [a lifting of the ban] is absolutely one of them.”

If there is a change in law, Blackmer said doctors opposed to physician-assisted death “will be looking to us for protection of their conscience and their right not to participate.” . . . [Full text]


One thought on “Canadian doctors preparing for ‘all eventualities’ in case top court strikes down ban on assisted suicide”

  1. Much will depend upon the meaning given to the word, “participate” by the Canadian Medical Association. The Association’s argument before the Supreme Court of Canada appears to leave room for coerced referral for euthanasia and assisted suicide [See Good News and Bad News]. The American Medical Association has a broad view of what counts as “participation” in capital punishment, including the giving of advice and other forms of indirect assistance. On the other hand, the Supreme Court of the United Kingdom has just offered an extremely narrow definition of “participation” that excludes referral. According to the court, objecting physicians unwilling to perform abortions can be forced to help someone obtain an abortion. In contrast, the Supreme Court of the Philippines has ruled that forcing an objecting physician to refer for contraception is an unacceptable violation of freedom of conscience. Meanwhile, the College of Physicians and Surgeons of Ontario, in the face of the pending Supreme Court ruling, has published a draft policy indicating that it will compel physicians to do what they believe to be wrong – which will include performing or at least facilitating euthanasia and assisted suicide.

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