Newsletter, August 2017

Physicians’ Alliance against Euthanasia

Newsletter, August 2017
Improve care. Make Euthanasia unimaginable.


Dear friends,

Sadly, but also predictably, the ink is barely dry upon federal Bill C-14 yet there are already petitions before the Courts, both in Quebec and in British Columbia, on behalf of people who do not meet the criteria contained in that law. Specifically, the claim is made that suicidal patients should be allowed to receive state assistance in dying even if natural death is not “reasonably foreseeable”. Remember that a similar provision is present in Quebec’s Bill 52, which states that the suicidal patient must be at the “end of life”. Therefore, in contesting this requirement, in Quebec, Jean Truchon and Nicole Gladu are challenging both laws. But more to the point, they are asking for the removal of the most
important limiting mechanism present in those laws; for after such a change, euthanasia would be legally available to virtually any chronically ill or disabled individual in Canada.

The Physicians’ Alliance against Euthanasia and many other concerned organizations and individuals will do everything possible to ensure, at the very least, that the provisions of existing laws are scrupulously respected. However, this will be a long and uncompromising legal battle. Our society is in a state of flux. No one can say with certainty where events will lead.

But , in the midst of this rapid and disorienting change it is important to deliberately re-establish a firm grip on reality… (continue reading editorial comment)


Catherine Ferrier


Doctors’ voices

  • Remember the old “good news – bad news” jokes? The bad news is that we had a bug in our membership data base. The good news is that it has been corrected, and we have 1122 physician signatories of our Declaration, not 804, as posted until recently.
  • Dr. Peter Tanuseputro in the CMAJ on May 1, responding to critics and affirming that euthanasia is “not simply another treatment with risks and benefits that can be tried along the disease trajectory”.
  • Dr. Terence Aitken on June 24, on party politics trumping serious reflection on conscience rights in Ontario (scroll down to Shame on Liberals”).
  • Dr. Sephora Tang on CBC Radio on July 20, discussing freedom of conscience, with input from Drs Terry and Christine from Toronto.
  • Dr. Ramona Coelho’s talk at the DeVeber Institute symposium on July 28: Professionalism, Conscience and the Physician (53 minutes).
  • Dr. Catherine Ferrier quoted in an August 12 commentary on the Cadotte-Lizotte case on the Bioedge site.
  • An Australian oncologist explains why his views on euthanasia have changed.


Call to action

If you are a member of the Royal College of Physicians and Surgeons of Canada, please respond to their poll on medical assistance in dying.


We received from the Council of Canadian Academies (CCA) a request to make a submission to the Expert Panel on Medical Assistance in Dying. As you probably know, this panel is studying the question of extending legal euthanasia to “requests by mature minorsadvance requests, and requests where mental illness is the sole underlying medical condition”. They are requesting information on “the state of knowledge on these three topics”, by “gathering and assessing relevant information and evidence”.

The deadline for our submission is September 22.

For further information see the CCA website:

Medical Assistance in Dying

General Sub-questions and Topic Area Questions

Please feel free to forward this request for submissions to other groups or organizations who might want to make a submission to the panel.


The United Nations Human Rights Committee is also requesting input on its redraft of the article on the Right to life. Please note point 10 in the Draft General Comment, which reads: States parties [may allow] [should not prevent] medical professionals to provide medical treatment or the medical means in order to facilitate the termination of life of [catastrophically] afflicted adults, such as the mortally wounded or terminally ill, who experience severe physical or mental pain and suffering and wish to die with dignity.

The deadline is October 6.


In the news


From the trenches

Quebec epidemic of doctor distress and suicide coincidental with bureaucratic medicine reform   and euthanasia? (read French article here)

Will future expansion of palliative care in Ontario be explicitly tied to the presence of euthanasia options in hospices?

Bioethicist Bob Parke thinks so; that’s why he’s one of the driving forces behind the project for a “safe haven” hospice in Toronto that will not provide euthanasia. You may be interested in his recent talk at the DeVeber Institute symposium (46 minutes).

The BBC reflects on Adam Maier-Clayton and his campaign for euthanasia for psychiatric illness, with input from Canadian experts Trudo Lemmens and Michael Bach.

New Milestone : Canada is used in Britain as a cautionary tale of bad things to come and exactly WHY the British House of Commons should never surrender sovereignty to unelected judges.

How about assisted shaving instead of assisted dying….

Studies on brain-damaged patients suggest they may be more aware than we think:

An Australian Atheist argues vigorously against the claim that opposition to euthanasia is merely “religious”.

“The very heart of the argument for assisted suicide/euthanasia (AS/E) is that an individual may be better off dead than disabled”  In this article, A disabled activist denounces the discriminatory threat implicit in that claim.

Dismayed by a contemporary lack of historical memory and future imagination (which she names as “presentism”), Margaret Somerville comments on Dr. Yves Robert’s change of heart.

Outcry among euthanasia providers in the Netherlands over a Wall Street Journal article that says they kill patients: “Doctors do not kill their patients, they help them to end their lives. The difference might not be clear, but is of great importance. If doctors were killing their patients they would be punished by law.” (read French article)

If you have experiences related to our work that you would like to share with your colleagues, please send it to



From the IACB, some guidelines for those facing permissive laws on physician assistance in suicide and euthanasia in their daily practice: Consensus Statement of the 7th International Colloquium. 

Palli-Science offers audio format advice (in French) for caregivers of palliative care patients living at home. Free registration is required to access site.

The Canadian Virtual Hospice offers suggestions of books, links, and other resources on a variety of topics.



The Canadian Physicians for Life annual conference will be held October 27 to 29 in Mississauga Ontario. It is open to doctors, medical students and friends. This year there is a special event for pre-med students.


In the literature

CMAJ, May 1, 2017. New Canadian guidance on opioid use for chronic pain: necessary but not sufficient. The authors remind us that, while unsafe opioid use is indeed a serious problem in Canada, a less well-publicized problem of under-treated chronic pain also exists.

Psychological Science, June 1, 2017. Dying is unexpectedly positive. The authors compare the affective experience of people facing imminent death with that of people imagining imminent death.

The New England Journal of Medicine, August 3, 2017. End-of-Life Decisions in the Netherlands over 25 Years presents data from physician questionnaires every 5 years from 1990 to 2015.

Journal of oncology practice, August 11, 2017. Enhancing informed consent for physician aid in dying: potential role of handout on possible benefits of palliative care. Assuming not everyone requesting euthanasia even gets a palliative care consultation, could a handout explaining palliative care help?

Canadian Journal of Neurological Sciences, August 14, 2017. Medical Assistance in Dying (MAID) and the Neurosurgeon: Position Statement of the Canadian Neurosurgical Society (CNSS). The CNSS is sitting firmly on the fence but does offer some support to conscientious objection to euthanasia.

If you come across articles that could be of interest to colleagues in the Alliance please send the reference to



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