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Debate the major issues

A federal election campaign and pending changes to allow assisted dying in Canada are giving added relevance to deliberations at the Canadian Medical Association’s General Council during its annual meeting in Halifax, Aug. 23-26.

The CMA had already scheduled educational and strategic sessions on seniors care – the association’s election focus – before Prime Minister Stephen Harper called the October election. But the fact that the election is going on while delegates meet provides the association with an opportunity for increased impetus in its call for a national seniors strategy.

The CMA has also planned a special advocacy training session on Sunday morning and a political action session on Tuesday afternoon to help physicians be more effective in influencing political candidates and others on the seniors care issue.

Strategic and educational sessions on assisted dying and a possible legislative framework to guide physicians, policy-makers and the public are timely, given the Supreme Court of Canada’s decision in February that ruled Criminal Code provisions banning assisted dying are unconstitutional. The recent federal government appointment of an independent panel to review the issue  - although that panel has suspended direct consultations until after the election - gives CMA delegates an opportunity to provide timely guidance.

The debate will be guided by results from recent polling of members and stakeholders and the outcome of an online dialogue on key questions concerning assisted dying.

In addition to the core discussions on seniors care and assisted dying are sessions on opioid prescribing in pain management and the future of postgraduate medical education — a critical issue for the CMA’s student and resident members.

Delegates’ motions on issues ranging from immunization to investment in fossil fuels are guaranteed to prompt lively debate.

Watch for these important deliberations:

Mon., Aug. 24

  • strategic debate on national seniors strategy, with motions validating the physician role in implementing such a strategy and discussing how physicians can be supported in delivering patient-centred care to seniors
  • panel discussion on opioid use in pain management to increase awareness of treatment options, explore guidelines and tools to better manage opioid therapy and provide input on areas for physician advocacy

Tues., Aug. 25

  • Committee of the Whole discussion of proposed CMA regulatory framework on assisted dying, followed by resolutions on end-of-life issues
  • Committee of the Whole discussion on building momentum for change in the postgraduate medical training system; delegates then debate motions for expanding capacity in the system and implications for increasing numbers of unmatched graduates, growing areas of focused practice and how to control the system’s size and specialty mix

Delegate motions on other issues are scheduled to be discussed Tuesday and Wednesday.