HealthLawProf Blog

Editor: Katharine Van Tassel
Case Western Reserve University School of Law

Sunday, January 29, 2023

Canadian Medical Association: Medical Assistance in Dying (2017) Project commentary

Sean T. Murphy (Independent), Canadian Medical Association: Medical Assistance in Dying (2017) Project commentary (2022):

The first statement by the Canadian Medical Association (CMA) addressing the subject of physician freedom of conscience at a foundational level was a 2016 submission to the College of Physicians and Surgeons of Ontario in response to its demand that objecting physicians facilitate euthanasia and assisted suicide by an “effective referral” (i.e., "a referral made in good faith, to a non-objecting, available, and accessible physician, other health-care professional, or agency." The principles enunciated in the submission to the CPSO were developed and applied the following year in Medical Assistance in Dying, the Canadian term for practitioner administered euthanasia and assisted suicide.

The CMA supports physicians who provide or otherwise participate in euthanasia and assisted suicide and those who refuse to do so. With respect to those who refuse, Medical Assistance in Dying states that objecting physicians "are not required to provide it, or to otherwise participate in it, or to refer the patient to a physician or a medical administrator who will provide assistance in dying to the patient." It also appears to put the onus on the state "to implement an easily accessible mechanism to which patients can have direct access" to obtain the services so that physicians can adhere to their moral commitments. The document addresses the circumstances of both patients and physicians in a more or less integrated manner, appropriately reflecting the nature of the subject. For analytical purposes, they are dealt with here separately.

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