A year since assisted suicide became legal, only a small number of physicians are willing to perform the procedure, and their numbers are shrinking. Taking a life is harder than they thought
The first thing April Poelstra noticed was the hitch in her father’s shoulder. Jack’s left arm was drooping, hanging limply at his side, as if he didn’t have the muscle to cinch it into alignment. It was the fall of 2015, and Jack was living in Frankville, Ontario, waking up at 4:30 a.m. to plow roads and work odd jobs for a construction company. . . Jack tried to downplay his shoulder problems. He visited his doctor for a battery of tests, but always changed the subject when April pressed for details. . . .In early 2016, her fears were validated: Jack was diagnosed with ALS. Amyotrophic lateral sclerosis, or Lou Gehrig’s disease . . .On June 17, Bill C-14 became law, making medical assistance in dying, or MAID, legal for mentally competent Canadians. Jack Poelstra was overjoyed. . . [Full text]
Canadians ask a lot of our physicians – years of education, long hours, complex cases and demanding patients (full disclosure – I am married to a doctor).
Since June of last year, we have also been asking them to help some of their patients take their own lives.
No matter how you feel about assisted dying, you have to admit that having a role in the act is a burden that few of us would ever welcome. And yet as a society we seem to forget that doctors are no different. . . [Full text]
Some doctors who have helped the gravely ill end their lives are no longer willing to participate in assisted death because of emotional distress or fear of prosecution if their decisions are second-guessed, according to their colleagues.
In Ontario, one of the few provinces to track the information, 24 doctors have permanently been removed from a voluntary referral list of physicians willing to help people die. Another 30 have put their names on temporary hold.
While they do not have to give a reason, a small number have advised the province they now want “a reflection period to decide whether medical assistance in dying is a service they want to provide,” according to a health ministry spokesman. . . [Full text]
Ottawa has seen 28 people take their life with the help of a doctor since legislation came into force.
Since new legislation came into place last year, 28 people in Ottawa have ended their lives with the help of a physician.
Advocates say the new legislation, which came into force last June, is taking a toll on some doctors, who are finding it difficult to help patients who want to die. . . .
Jeff Blackmer, vice-president for medical professionalism at the Canadian Medical Association, said doctors have been telling his group that they struggle with taking part in assisted-death procedures. . .. [Full text]
While not explicit in the language of the legislation, new physician-assisted dying laws would include the creation of a centralized referral mechanism for doctors and nurse practitioners who refuse to help a patient end their own life.
Dr. Jeff Blackmer, vice-president of medical professionalism with Canadian Medical Association, said the government has assured the medical professional community the database – which could be as simple as a toll-free number – will connect patients with willing providers. . . [Full text]