Alberta Medical Association president says MDs grappling with assisted death

The president of the Alberta Medical Association says it's time for physicians in the province to focus on how they will deal with patients who want help to die.

EDMONTON — The president of the Alberta Medical Association says it’s time for physicians in the province to focus on how they will deal with patients who want help to die.

Dr. Carl Nohr says the Supreme Court has ruled that assisted death is a patient’s right by law, regardless of individual opinions.

Nohr says some may want to continue debating the morality of the law, but physicians must look at how they will treat patients compassionately.

The Supreme Court has given the federal government until June 6 to come up with a new law that recognizes the right of consenting adults enduring intolerable suffering to seek medical help in ending their lives.

The Alberta Medical Association is to hold meetings next month to discuss practical ways on how physicians are going to meet such requests.

Nohr says he believes there will be enough doctors in Alberta who will be willing to help, so that no doctors will have to do so against their will.

“With respect to the objections of individual physicians, I am confident that a sufficient number of physicians will be available … without any need to override an individual physician’s conscience,” Nohr wrote in a letter sent to association members Wednesday.

“Respecting the choice of physicians who do not wish to participate will not hinder patient access.”

Nohr said the March meeting is to include presentations by the College of Physicians and Surgeons of Alberta, the Canadian Medical Association, Alberta Health Services and the Alberta government.

The meeting is not intended to reopen the debate over whether physicians should be involved with assisted dying, he said.

“The principle of physician autonomy is not served by forcing all to one side or the other. Regardless of personal opinion, we must all support the right of choice — either way.”

Alberta Health Minister Sarah Hoffman has said the province will consult with the public about assisted death. The province is expected to announce details of the consultation in the coming days.

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