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Canada Doctors’ concerns about assisted death to inform debate at annual meeting

The Canadian Medical Association is calling for the creation of a national palliative care strategy to ensure people across the country have access to a high-quality, dignified end-of-life experience.

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The Canadian Medical Association has released results of a major consultation with its members about the best framework for providing physician-assisted death, an issue that continues to divide the country's doctors.

Issues raised by doctors over the Supreme Court of Canada's decision to overturn the ban on physician-aided death will form the basis of a debate among delegates at the CMA's annual meeting in Halifax next week.

The CMA says results of that debate will provide input into both the federal panel struck to consult with Canadians on options to respond to the court's decision and a newly formed provincial-territorial panel examining the issue.

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As of this February, a doctor can legally help a patient with unendurable suffering to end their life, unless Parliament passes a new law to replace the one the high court ruled unconstitutional.

The most discussed issue in the online dialogue was reconciling the rights of a doctor who chooses not to participate in assisted dying with the rights of an eligible patient to have access to the services.

The CMA's report from the June 8-July 20 consultation includes 545 comments posted by 595 members on fundamental issues surrounding a framework for assisted dying.

"As a society, we are at a critical time in this discussion in terms of how we will respect the Supreme Court decision while protecting the rights of our most vulnerable," CMA president Dr. Chris Simpson said in a statement.

"Our members are telling us clearly they want and expect the CMA to continue to press for a principles-based approach to this serious issue."

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