POLITICS

Assisted-suicide debate in House welcomed by doctors

02/24/2015 01:00 EST | Updated 04/26/2015 05:59 EDT
The organization representing Canada's doctors says it welcomes the debate in Parliament Tuesday brought by Liberal Leader Justin Trudeau's opposition day motion.

In a brief statement released Tuesday, the Canadian Medical Association said the federal government plays an important leadership role on the issue.

Trudeau's motion calls for the creation of a special parliamentary committee to consult experts and Canadians on the potentially explosive issue. The Liberals want the committee up and running by March 11 and they want it to report back to the House by July 31 with a proposed legislative framework.

The Supreme Court of Canada ruled earlier this month that Canadians under specific circumstances have the right to have a doctor help them die. The court gave Parliament a year to bring in legislation that sets out the rules for physician-assisted suicide. If Parliament misses the deadline, then the only guidance for doctors would be the limits set out by the court and by the colleges that regulate doctors.

"We will be seeking to work with legislators in the drafting of any new law governing medical aid in dying to ensure patient needs are respected and the physician perspective is reflected," Dr. Chris Simpson, CMA president, said in the statement.​ 

"Canadian doctors believe it is of the utmost importance that all new legislation, confirmed by the Supreme Court in the Carter case, permits physicians to follow their conscience in choosing whether to participate in medical aid in dying," 

The CMA earlier this year revised its guidelines on doctor-assisted dying to allow physicians to follow their consciences within legal limits.

Simpson also reiterated doctors' concerns about the need to improve palliative, or end-of-life, care in Canada.

"As important and historic as the Supreme Court ruling has been, good palliative care will always be the cornerstone of quality end-of-life care," Simpson said.