Most Canadian doctors oppose physician-assisted suicide, survey suggests

The doctorsa group currently opposes euthanasia and doctor-hastened death. But the issues will be high on the agenda at the CMAas general council meeting later this month in Calgary, with a special session devoted entirely to end-of-life care. Euthanasia involves aknowingly and intentionallya performing an act a usually administering a lethal injection of barbiturates a with the sole intention of ending a life. With physician-assisted suicide, the doctor provides a patient with the knowledge or means, or both, required to commit suicide, including acounselling about lethal doses of drugs, prescribing such lethal doses or supplying the drugs,a according to the CMAas current policy, which was last updated in 2007. aEuthanasia and assisted suicide are opposed by almost every national medical association and prohibited by the law codes of almost all countries,a the policy reads. aA change in the legal status of these practices in Canada would represent a major shift in social policy and behavior.a The issue has taken on new immediacy with Quebecas move this summer to become the first province in the country to introduce a law that would protect from prosecution or jail doctors who offer the terminally ill medical assistance to die. In June, Quebecas Parti Quebecois government introduced Bill 52, an act respecting end-of-life care, which sets out the rules that would allow terminal palliative sedation as well as amedical aid in dying.a Under the bill, only a patient of legal age and capable of giving consent and who is suffering from an incurable illness and aconstant and unbearable physical or psychological paina would be permitted to seek a doctor-hastened death. Canadaas Criminal Code prohibits euthanasia and assisted suicide, stating that, ano person can consent to have death inflicted upon him.a The issue is now before the courts: The federal government is appealing a B.C. court ruling that last summer struck down Canadaas ban on doctor-assisted suicide, ruling it unconstitutional and granting a woman dying of Lou Gehrigas disease the right to seek a doctoras help in ending her life. Itas not a request Dr. John You has ever been faced with. aI personally am uncomfortable with the idea, but I know itas something that weall need to have a societal debate about,a said You, an associate professor at McMaster University in Hamilton, Ont., and a member of the Canadian Researchers at the End of Life Network. He said he worries the emotionally charged issue will overshadow the urgent need for better access to quality, end-of-life care for Canadians. In a recent article published in the journal Nature, Dr.

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