Canadian Medical Association proposes draft rules for assisted dying

Canada’s leading doctors’ lobby group is putting forward a draft framework of rules for assisted dying after nearly five months of inaction from the federal government.

According to a report in the National Post, the Canadian Medical Association’s sample protocols include a 22-day “cooling off period” and the right for patients to rescind their request for assisted dying at any time.

The move comes almost five months after the Supreme Court of Canada struck down the Criminal Code ban on medical aid in dying.

Wanda Morris, CEO of Dying With Dignity Canada, commended the CMA for speaking out after months of government inaction on the assisted dying file.

“There's a lot to like about the CMA's draft framework, and kudos to them for refusing to be stalled by a lack of government leadership on this critical matter,” she said. “Doctors, as well as patients facing extraordinary suffering, need clarity on how assisted dying will be administered in this country.”

However, Morris raised concerns about some of the CMA’s suggested rules, adding they could extend unwanted, unnecessary suffering for gravely ill patients at end of life.

“Someone who is suffering acutely cannot wait more than three weeks for assistance to die,” she said. “While 22 days is a reasonable waiting period for patients with chronic conditions, it is not be acceptable for Canadians with late-stage terminal brain cancer whose condition is already unbearable and deteriorating quickly.”

DWD Canada will be advocating for the creation of assisted dying laws that ensure fair and equal access for eligible patients across the country. The organization is calling on legislators to require publicly funded hospitals, hospices and long-term care facilities to allow physician assisted dying on their premises.

Lawmakers and provincial health regulators, Morris added, must require doctors who refuse to perform assisted dying to refer patients who request it to another provider or institution.

“Doctors’ right of conscience should be protected, but patients must never abandoned,” she said. “Patients cannot be left in unmitigated suffering just because the proper systems aren't in place."

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