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CMA ramps up support for C-14 in face of Senate delays

The Canadian Medical Association (CMA) continues to call for the Senate to pass Bill C-14, Medical assistance in dying, into law as soon as possible to ensure a consistent, national framework is in place that would protect both physicians and patients.

“We have been watching closely as the Senate has proposed amendments to Bill C-14 (this week),” said CMA President, Dr. Cindy Forbes in a message sent today to the association’s membership. “However, there is nothing that has been proposed that would lead us to change our stance that the original bill — as passed by the House of Commons — should be made law as soon as possible.”

Over the last two years, the CMA has led the national conversation on end-of-life care in Canada with both members and the public. This broad consultative process also led to the development of the CMA’s Principles-based Recommendations for a Canadian Approach to Assisted Dying guided by a set of ten foundational principles. These recommendations provided the lens through which the CMA assessed Bill C-14.

“The conversations with physicians and Canadians allowed us to bring forward the physician perspective as well as to ensure that the needs of our patients were represented in our work with regulators, governments and others,” added Dr. Forbes. “The CMA has pushed for passage of Bill C-14, Medical assistance in dying, because it reflects what we heard during these national consultations, particularly on the key issues of protecting vulnerable patients and allowing physicians to follow their conscience.”

The CMA contends that Bill C-14 also encourages a consistent approach across the country, critical to ensuring patients have equal access, no matter where they live.

“Without legislation in place (outside of Quebec), physicians and their patients have been left in a legal limbo,” said Dr. Forbes in her message to members. “The guidelines that have been provided by medical regulatory bodies are varied, do not have the same effect as laws and do not provide legal protection for physicians and other health care providers. “

While physicians across the country have expressed concerns over the effect of potential delays in bringing in national legislation, the Canadian Nurses Association, the Canadian Pharmacists Association and HealthCareCAN — the national voice of healthcare organizations and hospitals — have also strongly urged Parliament to pass Bill C-14.

Even as the legislative situation remains murky, the CMA is developing educational programs on end-of-life and assistance in dying: one online for all physicians (available after the legislation passes) and a more in-depth face-to-face program for physicians who may wish to provide this service. The CMA is also urging physicians who do decide to participate to seek further counsel from the Canadian Medical Protective Association.

Forward any comments about this article to: cmanews@cma.ca.