Re: Doctors’ attitudes shifting on physician-assisted suicide

Dr Bill Cavers, our president this year, describes the large CMA General Council “overwhelming majority” who voted for our right to follow our consciences in the matter of “medical aid in dying” (BCMJ 2014;56:381).

Readers who were not there may wonder who would vote against conscience protection, something we must all want for ourselves. Those who were there have told me that another motion, on revisiting the CMA euthanasia policy, was passed partly by the votes of those who wanted the euphemism “medical aid in dying” removed from CMA policy and returned to the euthanasia partisans who invented it.

The result of these two strategic motions was that an appearance of newfound approval for euthanasia and assisted suicide could be plausibly awarded to the CMA by an eager media. If CMA members wonder when we specifically voted on this tectonic shift in position, the answer is we didn’t.

Our patients speak up on both sides of this and many other issues. We could adopt a corresponding ambivalence about whether doctors should kill or facilitate suicide, or we could heed the warning signs from places like Belgium where these practices have become entrenched. The real risks of wrongful death could be glossed over, or we could do our job as doctors and warn the public accordingly.

Palliative sedation is the currently legal answer to almost all of the publicly admitted agenda of the right-to-die movement. We should be putting all our indignation into implementing great palliative care, a goal shared by everyone at General Council.
—Will Johnston, MD

Will Johnston, MD,. Re: Doctors’ attitudes shifting on physician-assisted suicide. BCMJ, Vol. 56, No. 10, December, 2014, Page(s) 475 - Letters.

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