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CMA PolicyBase

Policies that advocate for the medical profession and Canadians


13 records – page 1 of 1.

Physician-led anesthesia care teams

https://policybase.cma.ca/en/permalink/policy9244
Last Reviewed
2020-02-29
Date
2008-08-20
Topics
Ethics and medical professionalism
Health systems, system funding and performance
Resolution
GC08-76
The Canadian Medical Association endorses the concept of physician-led anesthesia care teams.
Policy Type
Policy resolution
Last Reviewed
2020-02-29
Date
2008-08-20
Topics
Ethics and medical professionalism
Health systems, system funding and performance
Resolution
GC08-76
The Canadian Medical Association endorses the concept of physician-led anesthesia care teams.
Text
The Canadian Medical Association endorses the concept of physician-led anesthesia care teams.
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Distribution of physicians in Canada

https://policybase.cma.ca/en/permalink/policy9277
Last Reviewed
2020-02-29
Date
2008-08-20
Topics
Ethics and medical professionalism
Health human resources
Resolution
GC08-111
The Canadian Medical Association and the provincial/territorial medical associations will work with the Federation of Medical Regulatory Authorities of Canada and provincial/territorial medical regulatory bodies to assess the national and international implications for the supply, mix and distribution of physicians in Canada as a result of the requirement for full labour mobility as set out in the Agreement on Internal Trade.
Policy Type
Policy resolution
Last Reviewed
2020-02-29
Date
2008-08-20
Topics
Ethics and medical professionalism
Health human resources
Resolution
GC08-111
The Canadian Medical Association and the provincial/territorial medical associations will work with the Federation of Medical Regulatory Authorities of Canada and provincial/territorial medical regulatory bodies to assess the national and international implications for the supply, mix and distribution of physicians in Canada as a result of the requirement for full labour mobility as set out in the Agreement on Internal Trade.
Text
The Canadian Medical Association and the provincial/territorial medical associations will work with the Federation of Medical Regulatory Authorities of Canada and provincial/territorial medical regulatory bodies to assess the national and international implications for the supply, mix and distribution of physicians in Canada as a result of the requirement for full labour mobility as set out in the Agreement on Internal Trade.
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Admissions criteria

https://policybase.cma.ca/en/permalink/policy9279
Last Reviewed
2020-02-29
Date
2008-08-20
Topics
Health human resources
Ethics and medical professionalism
Resolution
GC08-105
The Canadian Medical Association urges Canadian medical schools to revise admissions criteria to require a minimum of two years of post-secondary education.
Policy Type
Policy resolution
Last Reviewed
2020-02-29
Date
2008-08-20
Topics
Health human resources
Ethics and medical professionalism
Resolution
GC08-105
The Canadian Medical Association urges Canadian medical schools to revise admissions criteria to require a minimum of two years of post-secondary education.
Text
The Canadian Medical Association urges Canadian medical schools to revise admissions criteria to require a minimum of two years of post-secondary education.
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Access to medical information

https://policybase.cma.ca/en/permalink/policy9280
Last Reviewed
2020-02-29
Date
2008-08-20
Topics
Ethics and medical professionalism
Health information and e-health
Resolution
GC08-113
The Canadian Medical Association objects to the current practice of insurers, employers and other third parties requesting and gaining access to unlimited medical information obtained as a result of patients signing forms that grant unrestricted 'consent for release of medical information' when claiming eligibility for disability benefits.
Policy Type
Policy resolution
Last Reviewed
2020-02-29
Date
2008-08-20
Topics
Ethics and medical professionalism
Health information and e-health
Resolution
GC08-113
The Canadian Medical Association objects to the current practice of insurers, employers and other third parties requesting and gaining access to unlimited medical information obtained as a result of patients signing forms that grant unrestricted 'consent for release of medical information' when claiming eligibility for disability benefits.
Text
The Canadian Medical Association objects to the current practice of insurers, employers and other third parties requesting and gaining access to unlimited medical information obtained as a result of patients signing forms that grant unrestricted 'consent for release of medical information' when claiming eligibility for disability benefits.
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Medical information

https://policybase.cma.ca/en/permalink/policy9281
Last Reviewed
2020-02-29
Date
2008-08-20
Topics
Ethics and medical professionalism
Health information and e-health
Health systems, system funding and performance
Resolution
GC08-114
The Canadian Medical Association and provincial/territorial medical associations will seek legislative amendments that make the requesting third party responsible for payment for the provision of medical information collected (with patient understanding and consent) for the purposes of a return to work program or accommodation in the workplace.
Policy Type
Policy resolution
Last Reviewed
2020-02-29
Date
2008-08-20
Topics
Ethics and medical professionalism
Health information and e-health
Health systems, system funding and performance
Resolution
GC08-114
The Canadian Medical Association and provincial/territorial medical associations will seek legislative amendments that make the requesting third party responsible for payment for the provision of medical information collected (with patient understanding and consent) for the purposes of a return to work program or accommodation in the workplace.
Text
The Canadian Medical Association and provincial/territorial medical associations will seek legislative amendments that make the requesting third party responsible for payment for the provision of medical information collected (with patient understanding and consent) for the purposes of a return to work program or accommodation in the workplace.
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“Surgical Safety Checklist” campaign

https://policybase.cma.ca/en/permalink/policy9293
Last Reviewed
2020-02-29
Date
2008-05-27
Topics
Health systems, system funding and performance
Ethics and medical professionalism
Resolution
BD08-05-123
The Canadian Medical Association endorses the concept of the World Health Organization’s “Surgical Safety Checklist" campaigns.
Policy Type
Policy resolution
Last Reviewed
2020-02-29
Date
2008-05-27
Topics
Health systems, system funding and performance
Ethics and medical professionalism
Resolution
BD08-05-123
The Canadian Medical Association endorses the concept of the World Health Organization’s “Surgical Safety Checklist" campaigns.
Text
The Canadian Medical Association endorses the concept of the World Health Organization’s “Surgical Safety Checklist" campaigns.
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Accreditation Standards for Continuing Medical Education

https://policybase.cma.ca/en/permalink/policy9379
Last Reviewed
2020-02-29
Date
2008-10-04
Topics
Ethics and medical professionalism
Physician practice/ compensation/ forms
Resolution
BD09-03-32
The CMA commends the rigorous accreditation standards for continuing medical education adopted by the Committee on Accreditation of Continuing Medical Education and supports constant vigilance to ensure that the content of accredited CME events is consistent with the best available scientific information and ethically sound practice.
Policy Type
Policy resolution
Last Reviewed
2020-02-29
Date
2008-10-04
Topics
Ethics and medical professionalism
Physician practice/ compensation/ forms
Resolution
BD09-03-32
The CMA commends the rigorous accreditation standards for continuing medical education adopted by the Committee on Accreditation of Continuing Medical Education and supports constant vigilance to ensure that the content of accredited CME events is consistent with the best available scientific information and ethically sound practice.
Text
The CMA commends the rigorous accreditation standards for continuing medical education adopted by the Committee on Accreditation of Continuing Medical Education and supports constant vigilance to ensure that the content of accredited CME events is consistent with the best available scientific information and ethically sound practice.
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Caring in a Crisis: The Ethical Obligations of Physicians and Society During a Pandemic

https://policybase.cma.ca/en/permalink/policy9109
Last Reviewed
2019-03-03
Date
2008-02-23
Topics
Ethics and medical professionalism
Population health/ health equity/ public health
  1 document  
Policy Type
Policy document
Last Reviewed
2019-03-03
Date
2008-02-23
Topics
Ethics and medical professionalism
Population health/ health equity/ public health
Text
Inherent in all health care professional Codes of Ethics is the duty to provide care to patients and to relieve suffering whenever possible. However, this duty does not exist in a vacuum, and depends on the provision of goods and services referred to as reciprocal obligations, which must be provided by governments, health care institutions and other relevant bodies and agencies. The obligation of government and society to physicians can be seen as comparable to the obligations of physicians to their patients. The recent experience of Canadian physicians during the SARS epidemic in Toronto has heightened the sensitivities of the medical profession to several issues that arose during the course of dealing with that illness. Many of the lessons learned (and the unanswered questions that arose) also apply to the looming threat of an avian flu (or other) pandemic. Canadian physicians may be in a relatively unique position to consider these issues given their experience and insight. The intent of this working paper is to highlight the ethical issues of greatest concern to practicing Canadian physicians which must be considered during a pandemic. In order to address these issues before they arise, the CMA presents this paper for consideration by individual physicians, physician organizations, governments, policy makers and interested bodies and stakeholders. Although many of the principles and concepts could readily be applied to other health care workers, the focus of this paper will be on physicians. Policies regarding physicians in training, including medical students and residents, should be clarified in advance by the relevant bodies involved in their oversight and training. Issues of concern would include the responsibilities of trainees to provide care during a pandemic and the potential effect of such an outbreak on their education and training. A. Physician obligations during a pandemic The professional obligations of physicians are well spelled out in the CMA Code of Ethics and other documents and publications and are not the main focus of this paper. However, they will be reviewed and discussed as follows. Several important principles of medical ethics will be of particular relevance in considering this issue. Physicians have an obligation to be beneficent to their patients and to consider what is in the patient's best interest. According to the first paragraph of the CMA Code of Ethics (2004), "Consider first the well-being of the patient". Traditionally, physicians have also respected the principle of altruism, whereby they set aside concern for their own health and well-being in order to serve their patients. While this has often manifested itself primarily as long hours away from home and family, and a benign neglect of personal health issues, at times more drastic sacrifices have been required. During previous pandemics, many physicians have served selflessly in the public interest, often at great risk to their own well-being. The principle of justice requires physicians to consider what is owed to whom and why, including what resources are needed, and how these resources would best be employed during a pandemic. These resources might include physician services but could also include access to vaccines and medications, as well as access to equipment such as ventilators or to a bed in the intensive care unit. According to paragraph 43 of the CMA Code of Ethics, physicians have an obligation to "Recognize the responsibility of physicians to promote equitable access to health care resources". In addition, physicians can reasonably be expected to participate in the process of planning for a pandemic or other medical disaster. According to paragraph 42 of the CMA Code of Ethics, physicians should "Recognize the profession's responsibility to society in matters relating to public health, health education, environmental protection, legislation affecting the health and well-being of the community and the need for testimony at judicial proceedings". This responsibility could reasonably be seen to apply both to individual physicians as well as the various bodies and organizations that represent them. Physicians also have an ethical obligation to recognize their limitations and the extent of the services they are able to provide. During a pandemic, physicians may be asked to assume roles or responsibilities with which they are not comfortable, nor prepared. Paragraph 15 of the CMA Code of Ethics reminds physicians to "Recognize your limitations and, when indicated, recommend or seek additional opinions or services". However, physicians have moral rights as well as obligations. The concept of personal autonomy allows physicians some discretion in determining where, how and when they will practice medicine. They also have an obligation to safeguard their own health. As stated in paragraph 10 of the CMA Code of Ethics, physicians should "Promote and maintain your own health and well-being". The SARS epidemic has served to reopen the ethical debate. Health care practitioners have been forced to reconsider their obligations during a pandemic, including whether they must provide care to all those in need regardless of the level of personal risk. As well, they have been re-examining the obligation of governments and others to provide reciprocal services to physicians, and the relationship between these obligations. B. Reciprocal obligations towards physicians While there has been much debate historically (and especially more recently) about the ethical obligations of physicians towards their patients and society in general, the consideration of reciprocal obligations towards physicians is a relatively recent phenomenon. During the SARS epidemic, a large number of Canadian physicians unselfishly volunteered to assist their colleagues in trying to bring the epidemic under control. They did so, in many cases, in spite of significant personal risk, and with very little information about the nature of the illness, particularly early in the course of the outbreak. Retrospective analysis has cast significant doubt and concern on the amount of support and assistance provided to physicians during the crisis. Communication and infrastructure support was poor at best. Equipment was often lacking and not always up to standard when it was available. Psychological support and counselling was not readily available at the point of care, nor was financial compensation for those who missed work due to illness or quarantine. Although the Ontario government did provide retrospective compensation for many physicians whose practices were affected by the outbreak, the issue was addressed late, and not at all in some cases. It is clear that Canadian physicians have learned greatly from this experience. The likelihood of individuals again volunteering "blindly" has been reduced to the point where it may never happen again. There are expectations that certain conditions and obligations will be met in order to optimize patient care and outcomes and to protect health care workers and their families. Because physicians and other health care providers will be expected to put themselves directly in harm's way, and to bear a disproportionate burden of the personal hardships associated with a pandemic, the argument has been made that society has a reciprocal obligation to support and compensate these individuals. According to the University of Toronto Joint Centre for Bioethics report We stand on guard for thee, "(The substantive value of) reciprocity requires that society support those who face a disproportionate burden in protecting the public good, and take steps to minimize burdens as much as possible. Measures to protect the public good are likely to impose a disproportionate burden on health care workers, patients and their families." Therefore, in order to provide adequate care for patients, the reciprocal obligation to physicians requires providing some or all of the following: Prior to a pandemic - Physicians and the organizations that represent them should be more involved in planning and decision making at the local, national and international levels. In turn, physicians and the organizations that represent them have an obligation to participate as well. - Physicians should be made aware of a clear plan for resource utilization, including: - how physicians will be relieved of duties after a certain time; - clearly defined roles and expectations, especially for those practicing outside of their area of expertise; - vaccination/treatment plans - will physicians (and their families) have preferential access based on the need to keep caregivers healthy and on the job; - triage plans, including how the triage model might be altered and plans to inform the public of such. - Physicians should have access to the best equipment needed and should be able to undergo extra training in its use if required. - Politicians and leaders should provide reassurances that satisfy physicians that they will not be "conscripted" by legislation. During a pandemic - Physicians should have access to up-to-date, real time information. - Physicians should be kept informed about developments in Canada and globally. - Communication channels should be opened with other countries (e.g. Canada should participate in WHO initiatives to identify the threats before they arrive on our doorstep). - Resources should be provided for backup and relief of physicians and health care workers. - Arrangements should be made for timely provision of necessary equipment in an ongoing fashion. - Physicians should be compensated for lost clinical earnings and to cover expenses such as lost wages, lost group earnings, overhead, medical care, medications, rehabilitative therapy and other relevant expenses in case of quarantine, clinic cancellations or illness (recognizing that determining exactly when or where an infection was acquired may be difficult). - Families should receive financial compensation in the case of a physician family member who dies as a result of providing care during a pandemic. - In the event that physicians may be called upon in a pandemic to practice outside of their area of expertise or outside their jurisdiction, they should to contact their professional liability protection provider for information on their eligibility for protection in these circumstances. - Interprovincial or national licensing programs should be developed to provide physicians with back-up and relief and ensure experts can move from place to place in a timely fashion without undue burden. - Psychological and emotional counselling and support should be provided in a timely fashion for physicians, their staff and family members. - Accommodation (i.e. a place to stay) should be provided for physicians who have to travel to another locale to provide care; or who don't want to go home and put their family at risk, when this is applicable, i.e. the epidemiology of the infectious disease causing the pandemic indicates substantially greater risk of acquiring infection in the health care setting than in the community. - Billing and compensation arrangements should ensure physicians are properly compensated for the services they are providing, including those who may not have an active billing number in the province where the services are being provided. After a pandemic - Physicians should receive assistance in restarting their practice (replacing staff, restocking overhead, communicating with patients, and any other costs related to restarting the practice). - Physicians should receive ongoing psychological support and counselling as required. C. How are physician obligations and reciprocal obligations related? Beyond a simple statement of the various obligations, it is clear that there must be some link between these different obligations. This is particularly important since there is now some time to plan for the next pandemic and to ensure that reciprocal obligations can be met prior to its onset. Physicians have always provided care in emergency situations without questioning what they are owed. According to paragraph 18 of the CMA Code of Ethics, physicians should "Provide whatever appropriate assistance you can to any person with an urgent need for medical care". However, in situations where obligations can be anticipated and met in advance, it is reasonable to expect that they will be addressed. Whereas a physician who encounters an emergency situation at the site of a car crash will act without concern for personal gain or motivation, a physician caring for the same patient in an emergency department will rightly expect the availability of proper equipment and personnel. In order to ensure proper patient care and physician safety, and to ensure physicians are able to meet their professional obligations and standards, the reciprocal obligations outlined above should be addressed by the appropriate body or organization. Conclusion If patient and physician well-being is not optimized by clarifying the obligations of physicians and society prior to the next pandemic, in spite of available time and resources necessary to do so, there are many who would call into question the ethical duty of physicians to provide care. However, the CMA believes that, in the very best and most honourable traditions of the medical profession, its members will provide care and compassion to those in need. We call on governments and society to assist us in optimizing this care for all Canadians.
Documents
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Examination of adverse events

https://policybase.cma.ca/en/permalink/policy11692
Last Reviewed
2019-03-03
Date
2008-08-20
Topics
Health systems, system funding and performance
Health care and patient safety
Ethics and medical professionalism
Resolution
GC08-115
The Canadian Medical Association calls on regulatory agencies, hospitals, health regions and others to utilize a non-punitive quality improvement approach to the examination of adverse events while still acknowledging individual accountability.
Policy Type
Policy resolution
Last Reviewed
2019-03-03
Date
2008-08-20
Topics
Health systems, system funding and performance
Health care and patient safety
Ethics and medical professionalism
Resolution
GC08-115
The Canadian Medical Association calls on regulatory agencies, hospitals, health regions and others to utilize a non-punitive quality improvement approach to the examination of adverse events while still acknowledging individual accountability.
Text
The Canadian Medical Association calls on regulatory agencies, hospitals, health regions and others to utilize a non-punitive quality improvement approach to the examination of adverse events while still acknowledging individual accountability.
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Principles concerning physician information

https://policybase.cma.ca/en/permalink/policy208
Last Reviewed
2019-03-03
Date
2002-06-02
Topics
Health information and e-health
Ethics and medical professionalism
  1 document  
Policy Type
Policy document
Last Reviewed
2019-03-03
Date
2002-06-02
Topics
Health information and e-health
Ethics and medical professionalism
Text
Principles concerning physician information (CMA policy – approved June 2002) In an environment in which the capacity to capture, link and transmit information is growing and the need for fuller accountability is being created, the demand for physician information, and the number of people and organizations seeking to collect it, is increasing. Physician information, that is, information that includes personal health information about and information that relates or may relate to the professional activity of an identifiable physician or group of physicians, is valuable for a variety of purposes. The legitimacy and importance of these purposes varies a great deal, and therefore the rationale and rules related to the collection, use, access and disclosure of physician information also varies. The Canadian Medical Association (CMA) developed this policy to provide guiding principles to those who collect, use, have access to or disclose physician information. Such people are termed “custodians,” and they should be held publicly accountable. These principles complement and act in concert with the CMA Health Information Privacy Code (1), which holds patient health information sacrosanct. Physicians have legitimate interests in what information about them is collected, on what authority, by whom and for what purposes it is collected, and what safeguards and controls are in place. These interests include privacy and the right to exercise some control over the information; protection from the possibility that information will cause unwarranted harm, either at the individual or the group level; and assurance that interpretation of the information is accurate and unbiased. These legitimate interests extend to information about physicians that has been rendered in non-identifiable or aggregate format (e.g., to protect against the possibility of individual physicians being identified or of physician groups being unjustly stigmatized). Information in these formats, however, may be less sensitive than information from which an individual physician can be readily identified and, therefore, may warrant less protection. The purposes for the use of physician information may be more or less compelling. One compelling use is related to the fact that physicians, as members of a self-regulating profession, are professionally accountable to their patients, their profession and society. Physicians support this professional accountability purpose through the legislated mandate of their regulatory colleges. Physicians also recognize the importance of peer review in the context of professional development and maintenance of competence. The CMA supports the collection, use, access and disclosure of physician information subject to the conditions outlined below. Purpose(s): The purpose(s) for the collection of physician information, and any other purpose(s) for which physician information may be subsequently used, accessed or disclosed, should be precisely specified at or before the collection. There should be a reasonable expectation that the information will achieve the stated purpose(s). The policy does not prevent the use of information for purposes that were not intended and not reasonably anticipated if principles 3 and 4 of this policy are met. Consent: As a rule, information should be collected directly from the physician. Subject to principle 4, consent should be sought from the physician for the collection, use, access or disclosure of physician information. The physician should be informed about all intended and anticipated uses, accesses or disclosures of the information. Conditions for collection, use, access and disclosure: The information should: be limited to the minimum necessary to carry out the stated purpose(s), be in the least intrusive format required for the stated purpose(s), and its collection, use, access and disclosure should not infringe on the physician’s duty of confidentiality with respect to that information. Use of information without consent: There may be justification for the collection, use, access or disclosure of physician information without the physician’s consent if, in addition to the conditions in principle 3 being met, the custodian publicly demonstrates with respect to the purpose(s), generically construed, that: the stated purpose(s) could not be met or would be seriously compromised if consent were required, the stated purpose(s) is(are) of sufficient importance that the public interest outweighs to a substantial degree the physician’s right to privacy and right of consent in a free and democratic society, and that the collection, use, access or disclosure of physician information with respect to the stated purpose(s) always ensures justice and fairness to the physician by being consistent with principle 6 of this policy. Physician’s access to his or her own information: Physicians have a right to view and ensure, in a timely manner, the accuracy of the information collected about them. This principle does not apply if there is reason to believe that the disclosure to the physician will cause substantial adverse effect to others. The onus is on the custodian to justify a denial of access. 6. Information quality and interpretation: Custodians must take reasonable steps to ensure that the information they collect, use, gain access to or disclose is accurate, complete and correct. Custodians must use valid and reliable collection methods and, as appropriate, involve physicians to interpret the information; these physicians must have practice characteristics and credentials similar to those of the physician whose information is being interpreted. 7. Security: Physical and human safeguards must exist to ensure the integrity and reliability of physician information and to protect against unauthorized collection, use, access or disclosure of physician information. 8. Retention and destruction: Physician information should be retained only for the length of time necessary to fulfill the specified purpose(s), after which time it should be destroyed. 9. Inquiries and complaints: Custodians must have in place a process whereby inquiries and complaints can be received, processed and adjudicated in a fair and timely way. The complaint process, including how to initiate a complaint, must be made known to physicians. 10. Openness and transparency: Custodians must have transparent and explicit record-keeping or database management policies, practices and systems that are open to public scrutiny, including the purpose(s) for the collection, use, access and disclosure of physician information. The existence of any physician information record-keeping systems or database systems must be made known and available upon request to physicians. 11. Accountability: Custodians of physician information must ensure that they have proper authority and mandate to collect, use, gain access to or disclose physician information. Custodians must have policies and procedures in place that give effect to the principles in this document. Custodians must have a designated person who is responsible for monitoring practices and ensuring compliance with the policies and procedures. (1) Canadian Medical Association. Health Information Privacy Code. CMAJ 1998;159(8):997-1016.
Documents
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Physicians' professional autonomy and self-regulation

https://policybase.cma.ca/en/permalink/policy73
Last Reviewed
2016-05-20
Date
2002-08-21
Topics
Ethics and medical professionalism
Resolution
GC02-88
That Canadian Medical Association support the divisions in their efforts to maintain professional autonomy and self-regulation for physicians.
  1 document  
Policy Type
Policy resolution
Last Reviewed
2016-05-20
Date
2002-08-21
Topics
Ethics and medical professionalism
Resolution
GC02-88
That Canadian Medical Association support the divisions in their efforts to maintain professional autonomy and self-regulation for physicians.
Text
That Canadian Medical Association support the divisions in their efforts to maintain professional autonomy and self-regulation for physicians.
Documents
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Bill 114, An Act to Ensure the Continued Provision of Emergency Medical Services in Québec

https://policybase.cma.ca/en/permalink/policy1611
Last Reviewed
2016-05-20
Date
2002-08-17
Topics
Ethics and medical professionalism
Resolution
BD02-07-176
That the Canadian Medical Association and its divisions would strongly oppose any government legislation that would undermine the provision of quality patient care and enforce restrictions on the freedom of choice for physicians and patients.
Policy Type
Policy resolution
Last Reviewed
2016-05-20
Date
2002-08-17
Topics
Ethics and medical professionalism
Resolution
BD02-07-176
That the Canadian Medical Association and its divisions would strongly oppose any government legislation that would undermine the provision of quality patient care and enforce restrictions on the freedom of choice for physicians and patients.
Text
That the Canadian Medical Association and its divisions would strongly oppose any government legislation that would undermine the provision of quality patient care and enforce restrictions on the freedom of choice for physicians and patients.
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Notes for an address by Dr. Eugene Bereza, Chair, Committee on Ethics, Canadian Medical Association : Bill C-13 - An act respecting assisted human reproduction : Presentation to the House of Commons Standing Committee on Health

https://policybase.cma.ca/en/permalink/policy1963
Last Reviewed
2010-02-27
Date
2002-11-20
Topics
Ethics and medical professionalism
  1 document  
Policy Type
Parliamentary submission
Last Reviewed
2010-02-27
Date
2002-11-20
Topics
Ethics and medical professionalism
Text
BILL C-13 - AN ACT RESPECTING ASSISTED HUMAN REPRODUCTION Presentation to the House of Commons Standing Committee on Health Ottawa, Ontario November 20, 2002 BILL C-13 - AN ACT RESPECTING ASSISTED HUMAN REPRODUCTION Madame Chair and Members of the Committee: My name is Dr. Eugene Bereza. I am a physician and clinical ethicist at the Royal Victoria Hospital in Montreal and Chair of the Canadian Medical Association Committee on Ethics. I am here today representing our members, more than 54,000 physicians from across Canada. I also wish to speak as a advocate for our patients, especially those affected by infertility and those who are or will suffer from diseases for which medical science is searching for cures. I am accompanied today by Dr. John Williams, our Director of Ethics. You will recall that we appeared before this Committee on October 23, 2001 in company with representatives from eight other national health provider and scientific organizations to present our views on draft legislation on assisted human reproduction. Although we were pleased that your December 2001 report recommended the establishment of an assisted reproduction regulatory body outside the Department of Health, we were disappointed that you did not find favour with other recommendations we put forward. The government responded to your report with Bill C-56, now Bill C-13. It is this bill that we are here to address today. Although there are many details in the bill on which we would like either clarification or changes, we intend to focus our remarks on the issue that we consider of greatest importance for our patient’s wellfare and the practice of medicine. That issue is the use of the criminal power to deal with medical and scientific activities. The Standing Committee Report and Bill C-13 In your December 2001 report, you acknowledged our position on this issue: “Some witnesses recommended the elimination of the prohibited activities category altogether. Citing the benefits of regulatory flexibility, they felt that all activities should come under the controlled activity category, including the more reprehensible activities like reproductive cloning for which licences, arguably, would never be allowed under the regulations” (page 9). However, you rejected this view on the grounds that “a licence-related prohibition of this sort would not carry the same weight or degree of social censure as the statutory prohibition…. An outright statutory ban signals more clearly that certain activities are either unsafe or socially unacceptable. The use of the statutory ban also signals that these activities are of such concern to Canadians that their status as a prohibited activity may not be altered except with the approval of Parliament” (page 9). Bill C-13 reflects your views on this matter. We recognize your good faith in proposing and defending this position but we are convinced that its potential for harm outweighs its potential benefits. And so we are pleased to have this opportunity to reiterate the reason why the CMA believes that Bill C-13 will adversely affect the patient-physician relationship and the advance of medical science. Need to Change Bill C-13 As you know, our position on this matter is supported by legal scholars such as Patrick Healy, McGill University Faculty of Law, Tim Caulfield, Director of the University of Alberta Health Law Institute, and Bartha Knoppers, Université de Montréal Centre de Recherche en Droit Publique. In essence, our position is that the criminal law is a blunt instrument and very difficult to change and is therefore appropriate for activities whose status is unlikely to change over time, such as murder and theft, rather than medical and scientific activities that are constantly developing. The latter are better left to a representative regulatory body to determine if and when changes in health and safety considerations and public attitudes and values might justify allowing certain formerly prohibited activities to take place under specific conditions. Bill C-13 begins with the statement: “This enactment prohibits assisted reproduction procedures that are considered to be ethically unacceptable.” This echoes the conclusions in your report. However, as the transcripts of your hearings demonstrate, many Canadians, especially those who are infertile, do not consider some or all of these procedures to be ethically unacceptable. As a matter of public policy, should Canadians who hold this view be denied access to medical treatment for infertility because others consider such treatments to be ethically unacceptable? Should patients who suffer from conditions for which research that is forbidden in Bill C-13 might lead to a cure be denied that opportunity? We question whether criminal prohibitions are appropriate for dealing with activities on which there is considerable ethical disagreement among Canadians. In Canada legislators have been justifiably reluctant to use the criminal law to deal with medical and scientific issues such as abortion, withdrawal of life-sustaining treatment and the conduct of medical research. Why is an exception being made for assisted reproduction? What sort of precedent will this set for other controversial bioethical issues? We are also concerned about the bill’s penalties for infractions: jail terms up to 10 years and fines up to $500,000. These are disproportionate to the penalties for crimes that injure persons or property and, as such, will create a climate of undue fear and excessive caution for physicians and scientists working in this area, such that they will avoid any activity that is potentially covered by the bill, even to the detriment of patient care. Given the rapid advance of science and medical practice and the difficulty of anticipating new developments, it will be difficult to adjust the law to deal with new applications of prohibited activities that may be ethically acceptable. An Alternate Solution The CMA has stated repeatedly that we are not opposed to the prohibition of certain assisted human reproduction activities. Instead of instituting criminal prohibitions within the legislation, we remain convinced that an independent body on an ongoing basis should determine the activities that are permissible or prohibited on the basis of up-to-date scientific research, public input and ethical review. This can be accomplished very easily in Bill C-13 by moving the procedures listed under “Prohibited Activities” (sections 5-9) to “Controlled Activities” and adding the words “except in accordance with the regulations and a licence” to each of the provisions in sections 5-9. Consistent with this recommendation we consider that the regulatory agency should be established as soon as possible and be given as much authority as possible over the matters that Bill C-13, section 65, reserves to regulations of Governor in Council. We hope that the agency will build upon the experience and expertise of existing organizations and structures in the field of assisted reproduction that deal with practice standards, education, certification and accreditation. Conclusion To summarize, we strongly support government efforts to regulate assisted human reproduction and related activities, including the prohibition of certain practices either temporarily or permanently. However, like others who have appeared before this Committee, we do not believe that criminalizing the medical and scientific activities named in the bill is an appropriate way to achieve those objectives. We consider that the objectives could be as well achieved by far less drastic means than criminalization and, moreover, that criminalization would create major obstacles to legitimate medical and scientific progress in the treatment of infertility. We recommend that the proposed agency be empowered to regulate these practices and that the criminal power be invoked when controlled activities are performed without authority of a licence from the agency or in defiance of the licensing conditions established by the agency. Thank you, Madame Chair and members of the Committee. We will be pleased to respond to your questions.
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