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Canadian Medical Association lauds historic federal law on assisted dying

Ottawa , April 14, 2016— The Canadian Medical Association (CMA) is very pleased that the federal government’s proposed legislation on medical assistance in dying introduced in Parliament today closely follows the recommendations made by Canada’s doctors.

The CMA strongly welcomes the federal legislative and non-legislative response released today. Taken together, the proposed legislation and federal commitments to work with the provinces and territories go a long way to ensuring we reach a consistent framework on medical assistance in dying across all jurisdictions in Canada.

“The overall approach announced today is both thoughtful and comprehensive,” said CMA President, Dr. Cindy Forbes. “The CMA both welcomes and supports the federal government’s response and encourages Parliamentarians to support the advancement of this bill through the legislative process,”

Bill C-14, An Act to amend the Criminal Code and to make related amendments to other Acts (medical assistance in dying), provides critical elements to support a consistent, national approach. These include outlining the eligibility for medical assistance in dying, defining grievous and irremediable medical conditions, and outlining the necessary safeguards to protect vulnerable patients.

Importantly for both patients and physicians, Bill C-14’s preamble includes a commitment to develop non-legislative measures to support access to the full range of end-of-life care as well as respect the personal convictions of health care providers. Going forward, the CMA urges provincial and territorial governments to support the approach being proposed by the federal government, specifically to respect the personal convictions of health care providers.

“Today’s federal commitment to exploring mechanisms to support patient access and respect the personal convictions of health care providers will be critical to the pan-Canadian framework on medical assistance in dying,” added Dr. Forbes. “We applaud the federal government for making this commitment.”

The CMA is dedicated to working with legislators and regulators across the country to continue to provide the critical physician perspective on this issue, while ensuring patients have effective access to the service should they need it, no matter where they live.

While continuing to be active in the important discussion as the legislation moves forward, the CMA is also developing important new educational programming for physicians on end-of-life care and assisted dying.

The CMA has worked for more than two years to lead the conversation on end-of-life care in Canada. In 2014, CMA members participated in a member-only online dialogue on end-of-life care that included discussions on palliative care, advance care planning, and assisted dying. In 2015, a second member-only dialogue asked members to weigh in on fundamental questions about how assisted dying should be implemented.

In response to the Supreme Court of Canada’s judgement in Carter v. Canada, the CMA developed Principles-based Recommendations for a Canadian Approach to Assisted Dying to guide the conversation around assisted dying.

These recommendations were the product of extensive consultation with CMA members and key medical and health stakeholders. The recommendations are intended as a framework for the development of legislation and/or regulations on issues of particular importance for the physicians of Canada through the lens of the practising physician, who will be tasked with carrying out these activities.

The Canadian Medical Association (CMA) is the national voice of Canadian physicians. Founded in 1867, the CMA is a voluntary professional organization representing more than 83,000 of Canada’s physicians and comprising 12 provincial and territorial medical associations and 60 national medical organizations. CMA’s mission is helping physicians care for patients. The CMA will be the leader in engaging and serving physicians and be the national voice for the highest standards for health and health care.