Domhnall MacAuleyis a CMAJ Associate Editor and a professor of primary care in Northern Ireland, UK
Could cancer simply be due to bad luck rather than environmental factors, risky behaviour or bad habits? In recent weeks, media attention focused on a scientific discussion on the risk of cancer based on papers published in Science and Nature. While the discussion itself is fascinating, isn’t it interesting that this debate took place across mainstream scientific publications rather than in established medical journals. Perhaps medicine is already convinced by the epidemiology or, maybe medical journals are less open to such debate. This is the story: ...continue reading →
Today is a momentous day for physicians in Canada. No matter what your opinion about whether or not physician assisted dying is morally right, it will be a human right henceforth under certain circumstances.
James Downar is a Critical Care and Palliative Care physician with a Master’s degree in Bioethics. He is an Assistant Professor in the Department of Medicine at the University of Toronto, and co-chair of the Physicians’ Advisory Council for Dying with Dignity Canada, a group that advocates for the legalization of Physician-Assisted Death.
Physician-Assisted Death (PAD) is a controversial subject in Canada, but it shouldn’t be. The latest polls show that Canadians support PAD almost as much as they support sunlight and clean drinking water. PAD is now legal in many jurisdictions, and we have a large body of evidence to address fears about slippery slopes. When PAD was legalized in Europe, it did not become the default option for dying patients; it generally remained stable while Palliative Care grew dramatically. According to the Economist, the 5 countries that have legalized PAD are world leaders in the “Basic end-of-life healthcare environment”, while Canada sits in the middle of the pack. According to the Center to Advance Palliative Care, all three US states that have legalized PAD by statute rank in the top 8 for availability of palliative care services in hospitals. The vulnerable do not appear to be pressured into accepting PAD - on the contrary, the patients who receive PAD appear to be disproportionately wealthy, educated, and well-supported by family members and health insurance. I would almost call them “privileged”, but then I remember that they were suffering enough that they chose to end their lives.
I don’t support death. I enjoy my life, and I work very hard as a Critical Care physician to keep patients alive when I can. But I accept that there are times when I can’t. And there are times when I can keep people alive, but not in a state that they would value. ...continue reading →