Dr. James Downar

James Downar is a critical care and palliative care physician at the University Health Network in Toronto. He graduated from McGill Medical School and completed residency training in internal medicine, critical care and palliative care at the University of Toronto. He has a master’s degree in bioethics from the Joint Centre for Bioethics at the University of Toronto. He is also the current chair of the Postgraduate Education Committee of the Canadian Society of Palliative Care Physicians.

Dr. Downar's research interests include communication and decision-making for seriously ill patients and their families, palliative care for the critically ill and palliative care for non-cancer illnesses. Dr. Downar is a co-author (together with Tacey Bailey, Jennifer Kagan and Lawrence Librach) of Physician Assisted Death: Time to Move Beyond Yes or No.

Viewpoint

"Palliative care can provide good symptom control and dignity for most people dying with a terminal illness, but we need to show compassion for those whose suffering is not relieved by palliative care. For some, dying with dignity means having the option of medically assisted dying available if needed.

Medically assisted dying is now legal in many jurisdictions and that experience has shown us that appropriate safeguards can be used to protect the vulnerable from abuse. While I cannot foresee personally providing this for my patients, I hope that our laws will change so that informed people can choose this as an option in circumstances where they are suffering from symptoms that cannot be adequately addressed.

I will always try to provide the best palliative care for my patients, but we need to change our laws so that patients who want to pursue this option can be supported in doing so by the medical community."