Canadian Medical Association Votes to Continue Opposing Euthanasia

International   |   Alex Schadenberg   |   Aug 19, 2014   |   5:14PM   |   Ottawa, Canada

The Canada Health Network reported that the Canadian Medical Association (CMA), at their annual general meeting in Ottawa, maintained their policy opposing euthanasia while the Canadian Press reported that the CMA voted on a compromise motion on euthanasia and assisted suicide that supports:

“the right of all physicians, within the bonds of existing legislation, to follow their conscience when deciding whether to provide so-called medical aid in dying.”

picdoctors2bThe Canadian Press article stated that there was a significant debate at the CMA meeting. The article quoted the Past President of the CMA, Dr John Haggie, as saying:

“The driver for this discussion is a desperate lack of palliative-care services,” John Haggie, a Newfoundland physician, told the conference. “We don’t have a hospice in the province anywhere.” 

Haggie responded with an “unequivocal no” to a question posed by the CMA to its members on whether their patients have access to adequate palliative care.

At the release of the Parliamentary Committee on Palliative and Compassionate Care report (November 18, 2011) Dr. Haggie, who was the President of the CMA, in response to a question, told the media:

“requests for euthanasia usually reflect a failure to access adequate palliative care.” 

Haggie then called on the Federal government to institute a national palliative care strategy. On May 28, 2014 Motion 456, concerning a national palliative care strategy, received near unanimous support in parliament. 


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The resolution may mean that if the euthanasia legislation in Québec is put into place, physicians in Québec can decide to kill or not to kill, but outside of Québec, where euthanasia and assisted suicide would remain illegal, doctors must follow the law.

On June 5, 2014, the Québec National Assembly passed Bill 52, a bill that legalizes euthanasia in Québec and defines euthanasia as “medical treatment.”

The Physicians Alliance for the Total Refusal of Euthanasia and Vivre dans la Dignité in Québec launched a legal challenge to Bill 52 on July 17, 2014. The legal challenge to the Québec euthanasia law states that Bill 52 is unconstitutional since the Québec government cannot legalize euthanasia, which is prohibited by the federal criminal code. The legal challenge also says that:

the impugned provisions, of Bill 52, unjustifiably infringe the rights to life and to security of patients guaranteed by the Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedoms and the Quebec Charter of Human Rights and Freedoms. They further infringe the right to the safeguard of the dignity of the person, which is also protected by the Quebec Charter.

The Euthanasia Prevention Coalition has submitted its intention to intervene in the case in the Québec court.

At the end of July, 2014, the CMA released their consultation report on euthanasia and assisted suicide  indicating that 71.5% of the doctors opposed euthanasia or assisted suicide. The report suggested that, if euthanasia or assisted suicide were legalized that doctors should be removed from the provision of killing, with the act of euthanasia or assisted suicide being done by some other trained group of people. Note: Alex Schadenberg is the executive director of the Euthanasia Prevention Coalition and you can read his blog here.