Canadian Medical Association urges respect for conscience rights of medical professionals who oppose “physician-assisted dying”

By Alex Schadenberg, Executive Director – Euthanasia Prevention Coalition

Dr. Jeff Blackmer, the CMA’s director of ethics

Dr. Jeff Blackmer, the CMA’s director of ethics

The statement issued by Canadian Medical Association (CMA), in response to the report of the Special Joint Committee on Physician-Assisted Dying, expressed concern that the report “does fall short on the issue of respecting a physician’s right to conscientious objection.”

The report of the Special Joint Committee on Physician-Assisted Dying also requires all publicly funded healthcare facilities to permit euthanasia and assisted suicide on their premises, including hospices and religiously affiliated healthcare institutions.

(The Euthanasia Prevention Coalition published a summary of the report.)

In an article written by Sheryl Ubelacker, The Canadian Press reported that Dr Jeff Blackmer, the CMA Vice-President of Medical Professionalism, went further:

The CMA, which represents about 80,000 physicians across the country, had argued during hearings to the committee that doctors who oppose assisted dying on grounds of conscience should not be required to refer patients to a colleague willing to provide or administer drugs that would end their lives.

“We were very disappointed to see it not incorporated into the recommendations.”

The CMA is proposing that physicians not be required to refer their patients to a physician who will kill. Blackmer stated:

[T]he CMA had proposed an alternative — the creation of a central mechanism to facilitate access to medically aided dying, which conscientious objectors could advise patients about.

According to the article, Blackmer also stated that physicians who are refusing to kill their patients have also said that they will leave Canada, if forced to refer.

“I in no way mean to sound alarmist, but I have heard from some colleagues that are near retirement age that if this does become enshrined in legislation, they will retire,” he said. “I know some colleagues who have said they’ll move to a U.S. state.

“I don’t think those numbers are going to be huge, but certainly there is a subset of physicians who feel strongly enough about this that they would absolutely make changes in their practice, based on what the legislation might look like.”

At the same time, Post media reported that Jocelyn Downie, Canada’s leading euthanasia lobbyist, said that healthcare institutions should be financially penalized for not participating in euthanasia. According to the article:

Jocelyn Downie, a Dalhousie University law professor and expert on end-of-life law and policy, said provinces and territories should withhold funding from public institutions that refuse to offer legal health services on their premises, or a reasonable option for transfer.

Forced referrals and forcing healthcare institutions to participate in lethal injection proves that euthanasia is not about a “freedom of choice,” but rather imposing death upon the culture.