Discussing Physician-Assisted Death (PAD)

College of Physicians and Surgeons of Alberta Messenger, Trevor's Take On Leave a Comment

PAD has not surprised as a topic that is generating a lot of discussion and debate. Many individual physicians and groups have offered to assist and provide input to the advice and direction that the College will provide to members. Other professions – nursing and pharmacy most prominently – have recognized the implications for their members and correctly want to ensure their voices and interests are heard and addressed. Alberta Health has also been a very interested and helpful partner to date.

The Canadian Medical Association has provided significant leadership in this area and will again have PAD as an issue for discussion at General Council in August.

College Council is very attuned to the topic and has approved a plan of development, consultation and implementation beginning this fall. We recognize we need to review our standards on consent, moral or religious beliefs, ensuring competence and medical records (documentation) at a minimum. There is consensus that some sort of reporting and oversight body needs to be created and that the current definition of the types of death within the Fatality Inquiries Act may not be sufficient to correctly capture those as a result of physician assistance. The discussions to date from many perspectives and sources have given us confidence that we understand the issues that we’ll need to address; the challenge is the time available to do so.

We fully expect to have an advice document available this fall. Amending Standards of Practice takes more time and, recognizing the importance of this topic and the level of interest, the College will ensure that members and the public have ample opportunity to consult on the Standards of Practice and to provide feedback on the advice we provide.

Continuity of Care

I’ve been impressed with the profession’s response to the recently approved Continuity of Care Standard of Practice. Recognizing that some members are concerned with the mechanics – how will they organize themselves to comply? What options are available? How onerous will afterhours call be? – most respondents and inquirers are accepting of the principles behind the standard.

The advice document accompanying the standard appears to be very helpful, and I encourage members who are unsure of the interpretation of the standard to review it. It’s linked to the Continuity of Care standard on our website.

Finally, for the very few who think the standard is wrong and should be repealed: it’s too late. The consultation is over. The standard has been approved by Council. It’s time to accept that being available to patients after-hours and for critical test results is part of good medical care. We know this won’t be easy for everyone and that it will take some time for all to comply. While we at the College will be patient with members we are committed and will be persistent in our efforts. The expectation is clear and it’s not going away.

Report of the Advisory Panel on Healthcare Innovation

I’ve just started reading the Naylor report to the Federal Minister of Health on healthcare innovation in Canada and, based on the first few chapters, recommend it to those who want to learn more about what’s wrong with Canada’s Medicare system and how it might be fixed. The report is available on the Health Canada website here.

As always, I welcome your feedback below or by email at trevor.theman@cpsa.ab.ca

Trevor Theman

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