When the Canadian Medical Association (CMA) convenes in Halifax this month for its Annual General Council, delegates will confront what the CMA’s Dr. Jeff Blackmer has called the biggest change in the medical profession in Canada, maybe in centuries: the legalization of physician-assisted suicide and euthanasia ordered by the Supreme Court of Canada.
Last year, when announcing the intention of the CMA to intervene in the Carter case at the Supreme Court, Dr. Blackmer and CMA President Dr. Louis Hugo Francescutti reflected on what was at stake.
One person’s right is another person’s obligation, and sometimes great burden, they wrote. And in this case, a patient’s right to assisted dying becomes the physician’s obligation to take that patient’s life. . . [Full text]
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 naïve 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]
Canadian Medical Association Journal
All doctors have the right to follow their conscience when deciding whether to assist dying patients physically or to provide them with the means to end their lives – within the bounds of legislation, delegates to the Canadian Medical Association’s annual meeting have voted.
As Canada considers changing its laws concerning assisted death, Canada’s doctors considered their stance on the second day of the Canadian Medical Association’s (CMA) 147th annual meeting in Ottawa. In the end, they voted 91% in favour of allowing individual physicians to follow their conscience in deciding whether or not to provide assistance. . . [Full Text]
Globe and Mail
The Canadian Medical Association, which has a long-standing policy saying doctors should not participate in euthanasia or assisted suicide, is substantially softening its stance.
Delegates to the organization’s general council decided Tuesday that the CMA now “supports the right of all physicians, within the bounds of existing legislation, to follow their conscience when deciding whether to provide medical aid in dying.”
The carefully crafted position is an acknowledgment that, while assisting death is still a crime in Canada, the attitudes of Canadians, including those of physicians, are changing quickly, and so is the law.
While the group’s official policy has not changed, “it’s only a matter of time,” said Louis Francescutti, outgoing president of the CMA. Dr. Francescutti said the “conscience” resolution, which was adopted by an overwhelming 91 per cent of delegates, means that the CMA supports a doctor’s right to refuse to hasten the death of a terminally ill patient, but it will also support a doctor’s right to hasten death if the law allows.[Full text]
CMA to revisit issue of doctor-assisted death after delegates pass motion supporting physician’s right to ‘follow their conscience’
Canada’s doctors say they should be free to choose whether to help terminally ill patients kill themselves if the federal ban outlawing euthanasia is overturned.
Delegates at the Canadian Medical Association‘s annual general meeting in Ottawa overwhelmingly passed a motion Tuesday supporting the “right of all physicians, within the bounds of existing legislation, to follow their conscience when deciding whether to provide medical aid in dying.”
The CMA is formally opposed to euthanasia – a stance its leaders indicated would now be revisited as the emotionally charged issue takes on new urgency in Canada.
The Supreme Court of Canada is set to hear a constitutional challenge of the criminal ban on doctor-assisted death in October, while Quebec has introduced Bill 52, legislation allowing doctors help end the lives of terminal patients suffering “unbearable physical or psychological pain.”
The CMA defines “medical aid in dying” as euthanasia or physician-assisted death.[Full text]