Physician-assisted death law will need clarity, CMA says

The Canadian Medical Association is seeking consistency in the laws surrounding physician assisted dying in Canada before next February. Dr. Jeff Blackmer will be speaking at UNB about the challenges Canada faces.

Federal and provincial governments have until February to make legislation clear

Dr. Jeff Blackmer will be at the University of New Brunswick on Wednesday to discuss the challenges Canada faces creating doctor-assisted suicide legislation. (CBC)

The Canadian Medical Association is seeking consistency with provincial laws surrounding physician-assisted dying across Canada before next February.

"This is going to be confusing enough and challenging enough without inconsistency across provincial jurisdictions ... we really would like to see a unified approach," said  Dr. Jeff Blackmer the vice-president of medical professionalism at the CMA.

What Blackmer said he doesn't want to see is "patchwork legislation" that would leave some provinces with varying qualifications for the right to die.

"We want to avoid a situation where one province has legislation that allows for assisted dying for someone with depression and another province does not … people with depression will flock to that province," he said.

Dr. Jeff Blackmer, VP of medical professionalism at Canadian Medical Association, discusses the challenges facing assisted dying in Canada. 13:21

Blackmer will be speaking at the University of New Brunswick on Wednesday about the challenges facing the country in getting the law regarding physician-assisted death right.

The fight for assisted suicide ended in February when the Supreme Court overturned a ban on physician-assisted dying.

This is going to be confusing enough and challenging enough without inconsistency across provincial jurisdictions… we really would like to see a unified approach.- Dr. Jeff Blackmer

The Supreme Court gave federal and provincial governments 12 months to craft legislation to respond to the ruling.

"The Supreme Court has painted a pretty wide picture for us," said Blackmer.

Canada's assisted suicide law doesn't make reference to a requirement of a terminal illness, the challenge now is to create parameters around the decision.

"They have said people with a grievous and irremediable condition and unrelieved suffering … that's a pretty big group of people," he said.

"We need to make sure we all understand who qualifies."

The ruling outlined that those who qualify have to be competent at the time the decision is made. Unlike places such as the Netherlands, the decision to die cannot be set out in a living will.

Blackmer has been meeting with provincial ministers of health to discuss these challenges. He hasn't met with New Brunswick's Victor Boudreau yet but says a meeting is in the works. 

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