The Canadian Medical Association's blog today, features an interview with Dr. Jeff Blackmer, the executive director of the Canadian Medical Association's (CMA) Office of Ethics.
It appears that Blackmer may be willing to open the debate among the CMA on euthanasia in response to Bill C-562, if it appears that Bill C-562 has legislative support.
Blackmer needs to consider how legalizing euthanasia or assisted suicide directly threatens the lives of people with disabilities and other vulnerable Canadians. Vulnerable people often experience social inequality and they are often viewed by many as lacking full human dignity.
While palliative care and symptom management is centrally important to the care of people who are dying or experiencing chronic pain, the central reason for opposing euthanasia and assisted suicide is how it effects the way society perceives and treats other people.
We need to care for people and not kill them and we need to recognize that euthanasia and assisted suicide represents an abandonment of a person in their time of need a person who is so devalued that they are sometimes viewed as "better off dead".
The CMA's current policy:
The CMA's official policy on euthanasia and assisted suicide is unequivocal: "Canadian physicians should not participate in euthanasia or assisted suicide."
The policy reads: "a fundamental reconsideration of traditional medical ethics would be required" if the CMA were to change their policy.
Blackmer states that:
"We have put a lot of focus on palliation and symptom care in end-of-life care, and we are doing a better job than five years ago on pain control. That focus will decrease the need for euthanasia and physician-assisted suicide, but we also realize there may be exceptional cases where we cannot have symptom control for various reasons. There is sympathy among physicians and public that there are cases where you can understand why people would request this. I have a relative in Nova Scotia who is dying of end-stage leukemia, and he is ready to go. His family says, 'Isn't it a shame that, if he were a pet, we could end his suffering?' His family is saying they can now understand why there are proponents of people having more control over that dying process."
He later states:
"On these types of issues -- that is, a serious potential bill coming before the House or a serious development publicly -- we would reevaluate this policy closely."
...He then states: "We have a policy that is very clear, and we have no plans at the current point in time to change that policy. We wouldn't change that simply based on a public opinion poll, but at this point we are watching to see what is happening, to decide when and if we wnat to reopen that debate. My sense is we are not there in the very near future, but things could happen that would cause us to have to go through some introspection."
To read the full interview with Dr. Jeff Blackmer, go to: