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Some doctors change their minds about assisted suicide

By Agnieszka Krawczynski
The B.C. Catholic


VANCOUVER (CCN) — After giving their patients lethal injections, some Canadian doctors are having second thoughts about assisted suicide.

Jeff Blackmer, vice-president of medical professionalism for the Canadian Medical Association, said the CMA has noticed a drop in the number of doctors who are willing to provide assisted suicide in the months after it was legalized.

“We’re seeing doctors who go through one experience and it’s just overwhelming, it’s too difficult,” he told the National Post.

“Those are the ones who say, ‘take my name off the list. I can’t do any more.’ ”

In Ontario, 24 physicians have been permanently removed from the list of doctors who will provide assisted suicide, while another 30 have taken their names off the list temporarily.

There are no statistics available for B.C., but reports of doctors changing their minds about providing the newly legalized practice are not just rumours. “It’s been noted at a systemic level,” Blackmer said.

Though medical professionals may have ended the life of a patient out of compassion, the “psychological impact of that final, very definitive act” is no less than it would be anyone, he said.

Vancouver palliative care doctor Margaret Cottle said the news doesn’t surprise her.

“If you went into medicine to heal, there is something that is really jarring about ending a patient’s life,” she said.

“Who knew 30 or 40 years ago when we were in medical school we would be accused of abandoning a patient by not causing his death?”

Cottle said she knows doctors who have changed their minds about providing assisted suicide, or found it harder to do than they originally thought.

Society needs to cultivate “a vision that caring for one another is much greater adventure than killing,” said the pro-life palliative care expert.

“We can come alongside people. We don’t see them as burdens. We have ways of controlling pain and symptoms. We need to make those things available. You don’t have to be lonely or isolated. It doesn’t have to be a hardship or your family to take care of you. It won’t always be easy, but that’s our privilege as members of the human family.”

Blackmer did not return a request for an interview with The B.C. Catholic.

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