Canadian doctors divided on assisted suicide

Only 16% of Canadian doctors would assist in euthanasia

“I do think that Canadians and Canadian physicians are actually quite deeply divided on this issue and we certainly heard in our deliberations that there seemed to be many different viewpoints about how we should approach this,” said association president Dr. Anna Reid, after a panel discussion on the issue. “This is the reason we’re having the debate society is leading the debate and we feel as physicians we need to actually start finding out what our members feel.” Federal Health Minister Rona Ambrose, who spent the day at the convention, acknowledged that doctor-assisted suicide is an emotional issue for many Canadians, but she said her government isn’t planning changes to laws that make euthanasia and assisted suicide illegal in Canada. “You know all of us think about the issue because we have elderly grandparents and elderly parents and I think it is on the mind of many because Quebec has introduced their legislation,” Ambrose said. “Parliament voted in 2010 to not change its position on this issue so, at this time, we don’t have any intention of changing our position. It’s not surprising that these kinds of debates are happening within the physician community.” The Quebec government plans to hold public hearings in the fall on its controversial right-to-die legislation, which was tabled earlier this year. The bill essentially outlines the conditions necessary for someone to get medical assistance to die. The legislation followed a landmark, bipartisan committee report tabled in 2012 that suggested doctors be allowed in exceptional circumstances to help the terminally ill die, if that is what the patients want. The federal government says it will review Quebec’s legislation, setting the stage for a possible showdown between Ottawa and the province’s sovereigntist government. Quebec argues that delivery of health-care services lies within provincial jurisdiction and maintains it is on firm legal ground with the bill the first of its kind in Canada. The president of the Quebec Medical Association was involved in Monday’s debate, saying his province is ahead of the rest of the country on the issue. “Medical aid in dying is a medical service that’s within the continuity of life care. It’s aimed at helping the patient die under strict conditions at the patient’s request,” said Dr. Laurent Marcoux. “It’s not legalizing euthanasia for us it’s something new. It’s a way to care for the patient at the end of his life.” Former senator Sharon Carstairs said euthanasia and assisted suicide have been studied at the Senate level with little success in developing a consensus.

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Canadian Medical Association votes against motion to debate doctor-assisted death

We have to talk about it,a she said. The debate was so contentious, delegates couldnat reach agreement on the wording or language, referring a motion to replace aphysician-assisted suicidea with aphysician-assisted deatha on all future communications from the doctorsa group to the board of directors. One doctor argued the word asuicidea can provoke the same negative emotions as aabortiona and arape.a However, Dr. Robin Saunders, outgoing chair of the CMAas ethics committee, said it is time doctors acall a spade a spade.a aMedical aid in dying is, in fact, euthanasia,a he said. aThat is the term we should be using.a Canadaas Criminal Code makes it an offence to counsel, aid or abet another person to commit suicide, punishable by up to 14 years in prison. Federal Health Minister Rona Ambrose said this week that the government has no intention of reopening the debate. Nine private members bills seeking to decriminalize doctor-assisted suicide have all been defeated. But recent court cases, the proposed Quebec law and a rapidly aging population confronting its own mortality are pushing the issue into the public conscience. aThe baby boomer generation is starting to reach this inevitable crossroads in their lives,a Saunders said. aThis cohort a perhaps more than any other a is used to having control. aShould physicians remain steadfastly committed to one of the most fundamental tenets of ethical practice a namely, to respect the value of human life, and not actively participate in (physician-assisted death) and euthanasia a or does the physician have the moral responsibility to relieve suffering even if by doing so death is hastened?a Dr. Pierre Harvey, of Riviere-du-Loup, Que., said the CMAas mandate is to be leaders in health care. aGive me one good reason why, as leaders, we should not confront this inevitable question that has to be discussed everywhere in Canada?

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Canadian doctors divided on assisted suicide

The July 2011 CMA online survey that was completed by 2,125 Canadian doctors is considered accurate within plus or minus 2.1% 19 times out of 20. The CMA survey found that: 44% would refuse a request to assist a death, 26% were unsure how they would respond to a request, 16% would assist a death, 15% refused to answer the question while 16% stated that they were asked to assist a death within the past 5 years. Click “like” if you are PRO-LIFE ! A similar survey by the Canadian Society of Palliative Care Physicians (CSPCP) published in November 2010 found that of the CSPCP members who responded to the survey, the overwhelming majority 88% were opposed to the legalization of euthanasia while 80% were opposed to the legalization of assisted suicide. The CSPCP survey also found that 90% of responding members would not be willing to participate in the act of euthanasia while 83% of responding members would not be willing to assist a suicide. The Postmedia article reported that Dr. Sandy Buchman, past president of the College of Family Physicians of Canada, said that while the debate is important, its more urgent to improve end-of-life care in a country where only one-third of Canadians get access to palliative care, which is sort of national shame, in my opinion. I get requests from patients to end their life and to hasten their death, he said. And I kind of feel like, right now, Im off the hook. I can work very hard at trying to relieve their symptoms, without having to face that ethical dilemma of, Can I end a persons life? He said the issues behind a patients request for a hastened death need to be addressed. Maybe their symptoms have been poorly managed up to that point. Maybe theyre suffering too much pain, or theyre feeling isolated.

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