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MD group backs federal request that Supreme Court extend assisted dying deadline

TORONTO — The Canadian Medical Association has asked the Supreme Court of Canada to hear its oral submissions in support of Ottawa's request for a delay in implementing physician-assisted dying.

The ban against assisted suicide is slated to lift in early February, but the federal government has asked the court for a six-month extension to consider a legislative response to its right-to-die ruling.

CMA spokesman Dr. Jeff Blackmer says the doctors group is "acutely sensitive" to concerns that an extension could be seen as prolonging the suffering of some patients.

But Blackmer says the delay is needed so federal and provincial governments, as well as medical organizations, can deal with the host of complex issues related to assisted suicide and euthanasia.

The Supreme Court will hold an oral hearing next month as it considers whether to approve an extension to the timetable laid out in its landmark decision last February.

That ruling would allow clearly consenting adults with a "grievous and irremediable" medical condition to request that a doctor hasten their death.

Blackmer, the CMA's vice-president of medical professionalism, said a short extension would give physician organizations time to create communication materials, programming and supports necessary for the introduction of assisted dying as a medical service.

"The complexity of this type of initiative is considerable, and it is critical that physicians be properly educated and trained on a completely new type of intervention for all medical practitioners in Canada," he said in a release.

Follow @SherylUbelacker on Twitter.

Sheryl Ubelacker, The Canadian Press

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