Doctors are divided on euthanasia Bill C-7

By Alex Schadenberg, Executive Director, Euthanasia Prevention Coalition

Editor’s note. MaiD is an acronym for Medical Assistance in Dying

Dr. Ramona Coehlo

There has been much debate and division concerning Bill C-7, the bill that would expand euthanasia in Canada. An article by Abigail Cukier, published on November 2 by the HealthcareNetwork.ca, interviews doctors in an article titled: “Federal government’s reintroduced MAiD bill has doctors divided.”

In the article, Cukier interviews Drs. Ramona Coehlo and Leonie Herx who were among a group of doctors who published an open letter opposing Bill C-7. Dr. Coehlo tells Cukier:

“As doctors, we are meant to preserve the safety of our patients. If someone comes in who is suicidal, we try to prevent that and maintain their health and quality of life.”

“And to say that vulnerable people, disabled people, are in the same category as those who are about to die. To say there is nothing valuable, nothing we can fix, I see it as discrimination
.”

Dr. Herx, the past President of the Canadian Society of Palliative Care Physicians and chair of the division of palliative medicine at Queen’s University, responded to Cukier’s question about the 90 day waiting period, in Bill C-7, for people who are not dying. 

Dr. Leonie Herx

Herx states:

“Patients facing a life changing diagnosis can have feelings of hopelessness and anxiety. You don’t really have time in the 90 days to come to any sense of normal and to learn what it’s like to live with support to treat that condition, … it may not even be possible to access specialist care within the 90 days.”

Dr. Coehlo added:

“It’s very different to know that psychiatry exists and you could see a psychiatrist in a year, versus actually having good psychiatric care.”

“If I want to die right now and I am not going to get services for a year, but I can get MAiD in 90 days, I may feel funneled toward that.”

Dr. Herx then commented on the removal of the 10 day reflection period for people who are considered terminally ill and the fact that Bill C-7 reduces the number of witnesses from two to one. 

She said:

“The reflection period being removed is problematic. Wishes to die are most often an expression of grief and anger. A lot of people are just coming to terms with their reality. Removing the waiting period, where people have a chance to make sure that’s really what they’re asking for, increases the risk to vulnerable people.”

“What this bill proposes is that becoming dead through lethal injection is a standard of care. You can choose MAiD just like any other therapy.”

“The landscape has changed and the wording is no longer accurate. This is no longer for people who are dying or have death in their near future. This is medically-administered death, this is not medical assistance in dying.”

Editor’s note. This appeared on Mr. Schadenberg’s blog and is reposted with permission.