Cross-posted from Alex Schadenberg’s blog
An article published by Postmedia News reported on a survey by the Canadian Medical Association (CMA) that found very few Canadian doctors are willing to kill a patient by euthanasia, if requested.
The CMA defines euthanasia as:
“knowingly and intentionally performing an act that is explicitly intended to end another person’s life” in cases of incurable illness “and the act is undertaken with empathy and compassion.”
Canada’s criminal code prohibits euthanasia and assisted suicide, making it an offence to counsel or assist someone to commit suicide, or agree to be put to death. The CMA opposes euthanasia and medically assisted suicide in a 2007 policy.
The survey that was done by the CMA was completed by 2125 Canadian doctors, which is considered accurate within plus or minus 2.1% 19 times out of 20. The CMA survey found that:
● 44% would refuse a request to assist a death,
● 26% were unsure how they would respond to a request,
● 16% would assist a death,
● 15% refused to answer the question.
● while 16% stated that they were asked to assist a death within the past 5 years.
A similar survey by the Canadian Society of Palliative Care Physicians (CSPCP) that was done in November 2010 found that of the CSPCP members who responded to the survey, the overwhelming majority (88%) were opposed to the legalization of euthanasia while (80%) were opposed to the legalization of assisted suicide.
The CSPCP survey also found that (90%) of responding members would not be willing to participate in the act of euthanasia while (83%) of responding members would not be willing to assist a suicide.
|Dr. Sandy Buchman|
The article reported that Dr. Sandy Buchman, past president of the College of Family Physicians of Canada said that while the debate is important, it’s more urgent to improve end-of-life care in a country where only one-third of Canadians get access to palliative care, “which is sort of national shame, in my opinion.
“I get requests from patients to end their life and to hasten their death,” he said. “And I kind of feel like, right now, I’m off the hook. I can work very hard at trying to relieve their symptoms, without having to face that ethical dilemma of, ‘Can I end a person’s life?’”
“Maybe their symptoms have been poorly managed up to that point. Maybe they’re suffering too much pain, or they’re feeling isolated. Maybe they’re feeling a burden on their families. Maybe there’s huge anxiety or depression, or spiritual or existential distress.”
|Dr. Harvey Chochinov|
The article reported that Dr. Harvey Max Chochinov is piloting a study, funded by the Canadian Cancer Society, of what’s known as the Patient Dignity Question. The simple question — “What do I need to know about you as a person to give you the best care possible?” — is meant to help doctors and palliative care teams provide more empathetic care to the terminally ill.
“largely ignores death and tends to abandon patients when cure is no longer viable.”
“If we’re really, as a society, considering changing legislation that is going to allow for assisted suicide, it almost seems unfathomable that we would go that route before we have any obligation to be providing everyone quality, end-of-life care.”