‘Canadian doctors don’t want to assist in suicide’—new survey

The majority of Canada’s palliative care specialists don’t want to participate in assisted suicide, according to a survey recently conducted by the country’s Society of Palliative Care Physicians (CSPCP). The survey – discussed in the latest edition of the Canadian Medical Association Journal – revealed that only 44% of CSPCP members would be open to helping patients end their lives.

56%, or 189 of the society’s 350 members, believe assisted suicide does not fall within their purview (or, for that matter, within the World Health Organization’s definition of palliative care).

Although some palliative care doctors may choose to assist patients in ending their lives once that becomes legal, others believe that who should actually administer lethal doses of medication is still an open question. 

“There’s a huge misconception out there that that’s what palliative care is —it’s all about death”, remarked CSPCP president Dr. Susan McDonald. “No. The great majority of it is about life and living life as best as you possibly can”.

  “[Assisted suicide] It’s not part of our practice and we don’t anticipate it will become part of our practice,” says Dr. Doris Barwich, the Society’s past president and current executive director of the British Columbia Centre for Palliative Care.

In a landmark decision on the 6th of February, the Supreme Court of Canada ruled that prohibiting assisted suicide is unconstitutional and a violation of the country’s Charter of Rights and Freedoms. Various healthcare organisations and representative bodies are currently debating the practicalities of the new law. 

This article is published by Xavier Symons and BioEdge.org

The views, opinions and positions expressed by these authors and blogs are theirs and do not necessarily represent that of the Bioethics Research Library and Kennedy Institute of Ethics or Georgetown University.