Over the past 100 years, our profession has evolved in a variety of ways. When I started my internship in the ‘70s, ultrasounds — now a standard medical tool — had yet to be introduced. I often think that the CMPA’s founding fathers would be astounded by the dramatic changes in our profession and the evolving challenges we have had to face. For many of us, physician-assisted dying is one of these new challenges.
The recent ruling by the Supreme Court granting the federal government a four-month extension to pass assisted dying legislation, and the Québec government’s new assisted dying law, have put this extremely important matter at the forefront of our profession. I know physician-assisted dying is top-of-mind for many of us, and I want to reaffirm what I told members at our 2015 annual meeting in Halifax, where “End-of-life care: medical-legal issues” was the focus of our information session.
The Association takes the matter of physician-assisted dying very seriously. End-of-life care is an extremely emotional and important issue which needs to be considered by each and every physician, and you need to know that when you face these issues, you are not alone. The CMPA is here for you. First and foremost, the CMPA is an association of physicians, working on your behalf to protect members when medical-legal difficulties occur during the practice of medicine. Since 1901 we have been protecting the professional integrity of physicians and we will continue to do so. It’s who we are and it’s what we do.
As the issue of physician-assisted dying evolves, we will continue to advise members about specific legislation and regulatory authority guidelines and standards across jurisdictions. We are ready to support Québec physicians under their new legislation, and as other provinces come on line, we will assist them also. Our physician advisors are fully versed in this matter and are here to provide advice when you call.
When appropriate, we will work with governments, medical associations, federations, and medical regulatory authorities (Colleges) across Canada to encourage consistent legislation and practice standards, with the ultimate goal of ensuring clarity for physicians on this crucial issue.
Finally, we will continue to provide members with the most current information on physician-assisted dying and end-of-life care on our website.
The practice of medicine has changed dramatically over the past 100 years. What won’t change is the CMPA’s enduring commitment to protect the professional integrity of our members.
Hartley Stern, MD, FRCSC, FACS