Intended for healthcare professionals

Rapid Response:

Re: Why I decided to provide assisted dying: it is truly patient centred care

As an ordinary Canadian family physician, I have seen a different side of the new ‘Medical Aid in Dying’ regime Dr. Sandy Buchman glowingly describes. The scheme was sold to us and the public as a rare matter of assisting the suicide of extreme terminal illness cases. By a year into it, hundreds (now thousands) had died and over 99% of the deaths were not by self-administration, but intravenously by doctors and nurses. The Canadian euthanasia death rate has continued to escalate, while funding for palliative care services has fallen in several provinces.

The wide eligibility criteria do not require any estimate of prognosis. Yet there is already intense social pressure to widen them further to include euthanasia of children, the healthy disabled, cognitively impaired, and mentally ill.

Ending life has been re-defined as ‘part of care’. An Ontario court ruling has confirmed that doctors who want nothing to do with euthanasia have to get involved by making an “effective referral”.

Few Canada doctors foresaw that “going neutral” would guarantee the arrival of euthanasia, or that promises of a shot in the arm for palliative care would be forgotten. Even fewer realised they would have no option but cooperate with providing death on demand.

It has become all too easy to end patients’ lives. Learn from our mistakes.

Competing interests: No competing interests

08 February 2019
Williard P Johnston
Family Physician
Clinical Assistant Professor, University of British Columbia, Department of Family Practice
Vancouver, BC, Canada