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CMA examining Supreme Court ruling striking down ban on doctor-assisted death

Ottawa (Feb. 6, 2015) — The unanimous decision today by the Supreme Court of Canada to strike down the law prohibiting doctor-assisted death means that the Canadian Medical Association 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, CMA President Dr. Chris Simpson said today.

The CMA, he said, will be doing a detailed analysis of all implications of today's Supreme Court of Canada ruling that the current Criminal Code prohibition of medical aid in dying is unconstitutional. The Courts' ruling is suspended for 12 months.

"The CMA supports physicians being able to follow their conscience in choosing whether to participate in medical aid in dying and we note that the Court quoted directed from our policy," Dr. Simpson said. "The CMA policy recognizes that there are rare occasions where patients have such a degree of suffering, even with access to palliative and end of life care, that they request medical aid in dying. We believe in those cases, and within legal constraints, that medical aid in dying may be appropriate.

"We will work on different areas to provide advice to our members, including education and training, and analysis of ethics, the law and international practice."

The CMA will continue to work to promote access to high-quality palliative care for all Canadians, Dr. Simpson added.

The Canadian Medical Association (CMA) is the national voice of Canadian physicians. Founded in 1867, the CMA is a voluntary professional organization representing more than 80,000 of Canada's physicians and comprising 12 provincial and territorial medical associations and 60 national medical organizations. CMA's mission is helping physicians care for patients. The CMA will be the leader in engaging and serving physicians and be the national voice for the highest standards for health and health care.