Ensuring access to euthanasia by encouraging physician participation: it’s complicated

Sean Murphy*

In July, 2017, Canadian euthanasia/assisted suicide (EAS) practitioners and advocates alleged that patient access to euthanasia and assisted suicide was in danger because of “barriers” and “disincentives” to physician participation. Dr. Stefanie Green, president of their professional association, described the situation as “a crisis.”1 There was, in fact, no crisis — only a false perception of crisis fuelled by unrealistic expectations about levels of physician participation in euthanasia and assisted suicide.2

Nonetheless, it is reasonable for policy makers to respond to their concerns that physicians are discouraged from participating in euthanasia and assisted suicide. Indeed, objecting physicians are less likely to experience disadvantage and coercion if policy-makers seriously consider suggestions by EAS practitioners and advocates about how to encourage physician participation in euthanasia.

Removing barriers and disincentives to physician participation

Minimizing procedural and administrative requirements
Returning to the complaints and concerns of Canadian euthanasia practitioners (see Canada’s Summer of Discontent2), reducing or streamlining procedural requirements and minimizing burdensome paperwork might encourage more physicians to participate. However, this raises a question that may prove difficult to answer. Is a procedural requirement a “barrier” — or a necessary safeguard? A “disincentive” — or an essential ethical prerequisite? The difficulty is illustrated by developments in Belgium. . . .[Full text]

Medical Assistance in Dying — Implementing a Hospital-Based Program in Canada

Medical Assistance in Dying — Implementing a Hospital-Based Program in CanadaAbstract
After Canada legalized medical assistance in dying (MAiD), the University Health Network in Toronto implemented a hospital-based MAiD program. UHN offers a framework for assessing patients for and providing MAiD while respecting the rights of patients and staff.


Madeline Li, M.D., Ph.D., Sarah Watt, Marnie Escaf, H.B.B.A., M.H.A., Michael Gardam, M.D., Ann Heesters, M.A., Gerald O’Leary, M.B., and Gary Rodin, M.D. Medical Assistance in Dying — Implementing a Hospital-Based Program in Canada. N Engl J Med 2017; 376:2082-2088 May 25, 2017 DOI: 10.1056/NEJMms1700606