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Do doctors need legislation to assist patients end of life?

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Since the Supreme Court of Canada February 6, 2015 decision on physician assisted suicide the question on people's minds is, "Do physicians need legislation to help them with this ruling?"

The BC Civil Liberties Association ( BCCLA) was quick to allay any fears of a void occurring should new legislation not be enacted by Federal or Provincial Governments reminding that if no action is taken, physician-assisted dying will be regulated in the same manner as other health care matters.

Presumably, this may involve the Provincial licencing bodies including the Colleges of physicians and surgeons should the need arise.

Nonetheless, it will require physicians to expand their dialogue with patients and families to include treatments beyond comfort and support. Not all physicians will be comfortable or able to provide such care but may be able to assist with referral and oversight for the patient, keeping as always the patient's interest foremost.

Do physicians need legislation to assist them in having such dialogues with patients any more than they need legislation for dialogues with patients on all other medical treatments and conditions?

The National Post article on February 27, 2015, "No need for Harper government to enact new assisted-suicide legislation" includes both sides of the question.

“We don’t legislate to regulate how doctors withdraw life-saving treatment. Why must we legislate to regulate how they administer suicide?” said Amir Attaran, a prominent University of Ottawa law professor who holds the Canada Research Chair in law, population health and global development policy.

The article also includes, "Leaders of the Canadian Medical Association are calling for federal legislation — with their input — to clarify what the process would be ..." And the CMA President Dr Chris Simpson is quoted as saying "A lot of doctors are very nervous about this. They’re not very keen on participating in an environment where a lot of the details aren’t clear".

Is this true? Is the CMA president right, that doctors are nervous about this? And are leaders of the CMA right, that legislation is needed?

Is this just a knee jerk response to create more committees? Will this serve the public interest? And at what cost?

Are patients and families at risk of doctors or others taking advantage of the SCC decision and providing assisted dying services readily as a convenience?


Web Links

The National Post, no-need-for-harper-government-to-enact-new-assisted-suicide-legislation-professor/

Doclounge, bccla-provides-synopsis-scc-decision-death-dignity