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Member input on assisted dying sought

For the second consecutive year, Canadian Medical Association (CMA) members have the opportunity to provide significant input to the association on assisted dying — one of the most important issues facing Canadian society today.

On June 8, a member dialogue website was launched to encourage members to post comments and participate in a dialogue with their colleagues on fundamental questions about how medical aid in dying should be implemented in Canada.

On Feb. 6, 2015, the Supreme Court of Canada ruled that the current Criminal Code provisions banning assisted dying were unconstitutional, and the CMA pledged to help draft new national guidelines for assisted dying. The CMA Committee on Ethics developed a principles-based template for how regulations could be crafted when the banning provisions are lifted next year.

In 2014, members responded enthusiastically to the request to participate in a member-only online dialogue on end-of-life care including the provision of palliative care, advance care directives and medical aid in dying. This year, members are being asked to provide feedback and discuss the following fundamental issues:

  • foundational principles to underpin all guidelines and recommendations regarding assisted dying
  • key questions on issues related to medical aid in dying including potential regulations, oversight, the right to conscientious objection and the interaction between physician and patient on this topic
  • how to practise in this new landscape

Among questions being asked:

  • What process should be followed after a patient requests assisted dying?
  • For those physicians who refuse to participate in assisted dying for reasons of conscience, how do we reconcile this with their obligation to ensure equitable access?

“This is a historic opportunity for members to help develop a national approach to medical aid in dying that is respectful, values-based and consistent with our shared sense of compassion as Canadians,” said CMA President Chris Simpson.

The dialogue is moderated by Dr. Jeff Blackmer, CMA's Vice-President, Medical Professionalism, who guided the public and member dialogue on end-of-life care issues last year.

The online dialogue site will be available until July 6, 2015, as will the related online survey.

Results from both the dialogue and survey will be reported to the CMA’s General Council during strategic sessions on assisted dying in August. They will be used to support discussions with governments and licensing bodies, and will inform the development of physician resourcesand advocacy strategies in assisted dying.

“The CMA is committed to engaging with our members on this important issue and I encourage all members to go to the website and provide input,” Simpson said.

The CMA is also seeking input from – and working with – other medical stakeholder organizations such as the Canadian Medical Protective Association to provide a unified approach.

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