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CMA president's desire for euthanasia debate concerns groups

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Big difference between discontinuing futile treatment and "giving someone a lethal injection: Schadenberg
By Deborah GyapongThe mission statement of Family Hospice and Palliative Care in Pittsburgh is pictured in the reception area at the Center for Compassionate Care. The mission stresses compassionate care for patients and their families. CNS photo / Nancy Phelan Wiechec.The mission statement of Family Hospice and Palliative Care in Pittsburgh is pictured in the reception area at the Center for Compassionate Care. The mission stresses compassionate care for patients and their families. CNS photo / Nancy Phelan Wiechec.
OTTAWA (CCN)

Anti-euthanasia groups have expressed concern because the Canadian Medical Association (CMA) incoming president says the organization may revisit its anti-euthanasia policy.

"What I am sensing is that thinking is evolving quite rapidly around this issue right now, and it may change," Dr. Louis Hugo Francescutti told Postmedia's Sharon Kirkey Aug. 17.

"More [doctors] want to have the discussion," Francescutti told her. "And as more people start having the discussion they start comparing what's happening right now, either in their own practice or within their institutions."

Euthanasia Prevention Coalition (EPC) executive director Alex Schadenberg said he found Kirkey's article "misleading." He noted this article and others in the Mainstream Media (MSM) do not bother to contact those on the opposite side of the issue such as EPC or Canadians with Disabilities.

"They are acting like it's a done deal," said Schadenberg.

The articles treat euthanasia "as if it is simply turning off medical treatment," he said. There is a big difference between discontinuing futile treatment and "giving someone a lethal injection."

Giving lethal injections "should be of incredible concern," he said.

According to Kirkey's article, some surveys "suggest euthanasia is already being practiced."

"For example, morphine can be administered in ever-increasing amounts to control terminal pain," she wrote. "Morphine depresses breathing at high doses."

"We don't want to discourage the large doses of pain killer if it's necessary to kill the pain," said Schadenberg.

Is Francescutti suggesting because there is already some abuse in the use of morphine, therefore the practice should be legalized? This may be a variation of an argument he commonly sees that says euthanasia is already happening, so let's bring it out in the open, legalize it and regulate it, he said.

A doctor who is willing to abuse a law that says you might go to jail for euthanizing the patient, is not less likely to abuse the law if it is no longer illegal and you won't go to jail for it, he said.

"I don't see how doctors would be gaining anything by patients wondering when the white coat comes into the room whether he's going to give me a dose of morphine to make me comfortable or a dose to end my life," he said.

"Morphine when necessary for pain is not euthanasia and moreover it's very difficult to kill someone with morphine if they've been on gradually increasing doses and are in serious pain," said McGill University Centre for Medicine, Ethics and Law professor Margaret Somerville in an email.

The Catholic Organization for Life and Family (COLF) warned of two competing philosophies at play.

"Dr. Francescutti wants to have a frank discussion," said COLF assistant director Peter Murphy in an email. "That is well and good; but the first thing we have to acknowledge is that, within society at large and within the medical establishment in particular, we are confronted with two irreconcilable philosophies regarding the central question."

"One philosophy says that the value of human life is dependent on the quality of life; the other that human life, whatever its quality, is of inestimable value," he said. "For the Christian, the human person is of supreme value because he or she has been created by God, is sustained in existence by God and is called to live eternally with God."

"Is it realistic to think that we can reach a consensus with those who derive the value of life from some highly subjective notion of quality of life?" he asked. "Human life is precious. We need to live in such a way that those around us feel valued and loved despite their limitations and challenges."

CMA's annual general council meeting began in Calgary Aug. 19 with an expert panel on end-of-life care that included a discussion of euthanasia and physician-assisted-suicide (PAS).

Last Updated on Monday, 26 August 2013 08:05  
 
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