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CMA releases recommendations on assisted dying

CMA president Dr. Cindy Forbes was in Vancouver on Jan. 20-21 on the occasion of the meeting of Canada’s health ministers, where she announced the release of the association’s comprehensive recommendations on assisted dying.

In its Principles-Based Recommendations for a Canadian Approach to Assisted Dying, the CMA provides a framework based on 10 essential principles vital to physicians, patients and society as a whole.

Dr. Forbes and Dr. Charles Webb, President of Doctors of BC, hosted an information session on CMA’s framework with federal-provincial-territorial senior health officials in parallel to the intergovernmental meeting.

The development of the CMA’s framework followed an extensive public and physician consultation led by the association on end-of-life care, including physician-assisted dying.

The CMA’s final framework addresses the many medical, ethical and oversight issues raised by the Supreme Court of Canada’s decision on assisted dying in February 2015.

These include patient eligibility for access to and assessment for assisted dying; procedural safeguards to ensure eligibility criteria are met; the roles and responsibilities of the attending and consulting physicians; and how to balance the physician’s freedom of conscience with assurance of effective and timely patient access to a medical service.

At a reception hosted by the CMA and attended by health ministers, local physician-members and key stakeholders, Dr. Forbes expressed the association’s call for a consistent, pan-Canadian approach “to provide clarity and consistency for physicians and their patients.”

The CMA’s framework clearly emphasizes the need for systems and resources to facilitate effective patient access. In addition, Dr. Forbes also noted that the framework reinforces the CMA’s call for increased resources and access to high-quality palliative care.

Dr. Forbes reminded attendees that the CMA has long been an active leader on seniors care, palliative care and end-of-life issues. In 2014, it heard from Canadians across the country through a series of public town halls, and held a member-only, online dialogue on end-of-life care.

“By having had these countless, critical conversations, we were able to encapsulate the physician’s perspective on assisted dying while also recognizing the needs of patients,” Dr. Forbes said.

“The CMA strongly supports the federal government’s commitment to strengthen federal-provincial ties on health issues,” said Dr. Forbes. “We have a real opportunity to make meaningful change to our health care system by working together so that it better serves Canadians.”

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