63% of Canadian physicians will refuse to assist their patients suicide

Alex Schadenberg

Alex Schadenberg

By Alex Schadenberg, Executive Director, Euthanasia Prevention Coalition

Today, the Canadian Medical Association (CMA) released to the media the results of their online survey of members. The survey that was based on responses from 1407 CMA members found that 63% would refuse to assist the death of their patients, 29% said that they would assisted the death of their patients upon request and 8% were unsure.

For those who would assist the death of their patients, 43% would do so for non-terminal patients and 19% would do so for patients who live with psychological suffering.

The Supreme Court of Canada decision defined Assisted Death to include euthanasia (lethal injection) and assisted suicide (prescribing a lethal dose).

Saskatoon hematologist Dr Sheila Harding strongly opposes assisted death. CBC news reported Harding as saying:

"I feel strongly that hastening death is not part of medicine. I think it eviscerates what medicine is intended to be. I think that asking physicians to be killers is contrary to the very core of medicine,"

Physicians conscience rights.

According to the Globe and Mail, 75% of the CMA conference delegates agreed that:

physicians should provide information to patients on all end-of-life options available to them but should not be obliged to refer.

The Globe and Mail article quoted Dr. Jennifer Tong of Vancouver who warned: 

“coercing physicians against their conscience” would damage patient-doctor relations and push some out of the profession.

Dr. Jeff Blackmer, vice president of medical professionalism with the CMA stated:

"No physician should be forced to participate against their conscience," 
"But there's disagreement about what this means."

29% of the physicians who refuse to kill their patients are also opposed to having anything to do with assisted death, while the others were either unsure or willing to refer their patient to another physician or administrator in some manner.