‘that Terrifies Us’: Canadian Doctors Get Virtually No Training On Handling A Patient’s Desire To Die

Doctors debate physician-assisted suicide

Librach. Sometimes the appeal comes from the relative of a deeply suffering patient. They say If my dad were a dog, you would just put him down. Why cant you do something? said Dr. Harlos. The situation can be challenging even for those trained to deal with such issues, said Dr. Robin Fainsinger, a palliative-care physician at the University of Alberta. Its never going to be an easy conversation, he said. The reasons behind the requests vary, with untreated pain being just one of many possible motives, said palliative specialists. Sometimes the sentiment stems from a loss of control not knowing when or how the end will come or a worry about burdening family members, said Dr. Harlos. When he did die, he died in agony: We couldnt get enough medication into him In one of the Winnipeg physicians terminal cases, a highly successful businessman and all-round alpha male felt he essentially had nothing left to live for as he lay incapacitated in a hospital bed and wanted help to die prematurely. I said, Youre used to accomplishing things and the biggest task ahead of you is to show your family how this is done, said Dr. Harlos. It inspired him to the point where he completely turned around [psychologically]. He and Dr. Fainsinger said the vast majority of patients can be mollified by the right kind of medical help and counseling.

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Canada needs better programs that allow patients to die comfortably at home and more palliative care training for young physicians, said panellist Dr. Eric Wasylenko, a Calgary family physician specializing in palliative care. Proper end-of-life care strives to help patients live as well as they can before they die, he said. aMy personal view is it is not within the role of the physician or the practice of medicine to actually deliberately cause someoneas death, even if theyave asked for it,a said Wasylenko, in an interview following the panel discussion. aThe role of physicians and medical care is to support people in their life until their natural death, not to kill them artificially or in advance of their natural death.a The debate has taken on growing urgency in Canada after Quebec introduced contentious right-to-die legislation this year. Earlier Monday, Canadaas health minister Rona Ambrose said the federal government isnat planning to reopen the debate on euthanasia. aThis is an issue that is very emotional for a lot of people a not just regular Canadians, but also physicians,a she told reporters. aParliament voted in 2010 to not change its position on this issue. At this time, we donat have any intention of changing our position.a As the Quebec parliamentary commission begins hearings next month on the issue, Canadian physicians should be prepared to face a growing public discussion around the issue, said CMA president Dr. Anna Reid. aAlthough physicians are grappling with these issues, they require a broader societal discussion,a she said. aWe feel as physicians we need to actually start to find out what our members feel and actually tease out the nuances, actually start to understand the definitions, understand the terminology of what weare all talking about.a Dr.

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