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Palliative care doctors say they don't want role in assisted suicide

QMI Agency

Dr. Kim Scher, lead physician with palliative care at Douglas Memorial Hospital in Fort Erie, Ont., examines a patient.
(MARYANNE FIRTH/Tribune Staff)

Dr. Kim Scher, lead physician with palliative care at Douglas Memorial Hospital in Fort Erie, Ont., examines a patient. (MARYANNE FIRTH/Tribune Staff)

The responsibility for carrying out assisted-suicide in Canada shouldn't fall on the shoulders of palliative care doctors, the Canadian Society of Palliative Care Physicians says.

"Palliative care physicians don't see assisted suicide as part of palliative care," society president Dr. Susan MacDonald said in an interview with the Canadian Medical Association Journal.

"Physician-assisted suicide should happen separate from palliative care -- absolutely."

Dr. Doris Barwich, executive director of the B.C. Centre for Palliative Care, echoed that sentiment.

"It's not part of our practice and we don't anticipate it will become part of our practice," she told the medical journal.

On Feb. 6, the Supreme Court of Canada struck down the country's ban on doctor-assisted suicide, deeming it unconstitutional.

The court ruled that physician-assisted suicide only be OK'd for consenting adults experiencing severe suffering.

But it's not yet clear who will decide whether a patient meets that criteria.

The top court gave the federal government a year to draft guidelines on how assisted suicide will work in Canada.

Liberal Leader Justin Trudeau said Wednesday the Tory government should get started on that process immediately, before a federal election is triggered.

Prime Minister Stephen Harper sidestepped questions in the House of Commons Wednesday about when his government would begin consultations on the issue.

"Its obvious this issue is a sensitive one for many Canadians and they have very strong beliefs on all sides, so we will study this decision and we will carry out vast consultations and deal with this important issue," he said.

A recent survey by the Canadian Society of Palliative Care Physicians found 56% of its 250 members believe assisted suicide falls outside their purview.

 


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