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Framework for Ethical Decision Making During the Coronavirus Pandemic

https://policybase.cma.ca/en/permalink/policy14133
Date
2020-04-01
Topics
Ethics and medical professionalism
Health care and patient safety
  1 document  
Policy Type
Policy document
Date
2020-04-01
Topics
Ethics and medical professionalism
Health care and patient safety
Text
The current global pandemic caused by the novel coronavirus has presented the international medical community with unprecedented ethical challenges. The most difficult of these has involved making decisions about access to scarce resources when demand outweighs capacity. In Canada, it is well accepted that everyone should have an equal opportunity to access and receive medical treatment. This is possible when there are sufficient resources. But in contexts of resource scarcity, when there are insufficient resources, difficult decisions have to be made about who receives critical care (e.g., ICU beds, ventilators) by triaging patients. Triage is a process for determining which patients receive treatment and/or which level of care under what circumstances in contexts of resource scarcity. Priority-setting for resource allocation becomes more ethically complex during catastrophic times or in public health emergencies, such as today’s COVID-19 pandemic, when there is a need to manage a potential surge of patients. Physicians from China to Italy to Spain to the United States have found themselves in the unfathomable position of having to triage their most seriously ill patients and decide which ones should have access to ventilators and which should not, and which allocation criteria should be used to make these decisions. While the Canadian Medical Association hopes that Canadian physicians will not be faced with these agonizing choices, it is our intent, through this framework, to provide them with guidance in case they do and enable them to make ethically justifiable informed decisions in the face of difficult ethical dilemmas. Invoking this framework to ground decisions about who has access to critical care and who does not should only be made as a last resort. As always, physicians should carefully document their clinical and ethical decisions and the reasoning behind them. Generally, the CMA would spend many months in deliberations and consultations with numerous stakeholders, including patients and the public, before producing a document such as this one. The current situation, unfortunately, did not allow for such a process. We have turned instead to documents, reports and policies produced by our Italian colleagues and ethicists and physicians from Canada and around the world, as well as provincial level documents and frameworks. The CMA is endorsing and recommending that Canadian physicians use the guidance provided by Emmanuel and colleagues in the New England Journal of Medicine article dated from March 23rd, as outlined below. We believe these recommendations represent the best current approach to this situation, produced using the highest current standard of evidence by a panel of internationally recognized experts. We also recognize that the situation is changing constantly, and these guidelines may need to be updated as required. The CMA will continue to advocate for access to personal protective equipment, ventilators and ICU equipment and resources. We also encourage physicians to make themselves aware of any relevant provincial or local documents, and to seek advice from their regulatory body or liability protection provider. It should be noted that some provinces and indeed individual health care facilities will have their own protocols or frameworks in place. At the time of its publication, this document was broadly consistent with those protocols that we were given an opportunity to review. The CMA recognizes that physicians may experience moral distress when making these decisions. We encourage physicians to seek peer support and practice self-care. In addition, the CMA recommends that triage teams or committees be convened where feasible in order to help separate clinical decision making from resource allocation, thereby lessening the moral burden being placed on the individual physician. The CMA recommends that physicians receive legal protection to ensure that they can continue providing needed care to patients with confidence and support and without fear of civil or criminal liability or professional discipline. In this time of uncertainty, physicians should be reassured that their good faith efforts to provide care during such a crisis will not put them at increased medical-legal risk. Providing such reassurance is needed so that physicians have the confidence to continue to provide care to their patients. Recommendations: Recommendation 1: In the context of a pandemic, the value of maximizing benefits is most important. This value reflects the importance of responsible stewardship of resources: it is difficult to justify asking health care workers and the public to take risks and make sacrifices if the promise that their efforts will save and lengthen lives is illusory. Priority for limited resources should aim both at saving the most lives and at maximizing improvements in individuals’ post-treatment length of life. Saving more lives and more years of life is a consensus value across expert reports. It is consistent both with utilitarian ethical perspectives that emphasize population outcomes and with nonutilitarian views that emphasize the paramount value of each human life. There are many reasonable ways of balancing saving more lives against saving more years of life; whatever balance between lives and life-years is chosen must be applied consistently. Limited time and information in a Covid-19 pandemic make it justifiable to give priority to maximizing the number of patients that survive treatment with a reasonable life expectancy and to regard maximizing improvements in length of life as a subordinate aim. The latter becomes relevant only in comparing patients whose likelihood of survival is similar. Limited time and information during an emergency also counsel against incorporating patients’ future quality of life, and quality-adjusted life-years, into benefit maximization. Doing so would require time-consuming collection of information and would present ethical and legal problems. However, encouraging all patients, especially those facing the prospect of intensive care, to document in an advance care directive what future quality of life they would regard as acceptable and when they would refuse ventilators or other life-sustaining interventions can be appropriate. Operationalizing the value of maximizing benefits means that people who are sick but could recover if treated are given priority over those who are unlikely to recover even if treated and those who are likely to recover without treatment. Because young, severely ill patients will often comprise many of those who are sick but could recover with treatment, this operationalization also has the effect of giving priority to those who are worst off in the sense of being at risk of dying young and not having a full life. Because maximizing benefits is paramount in a pandemic, we believe that removing a patient from a ventilator or an ICU bed to provide it to others in need is also justifiable and that patients should be made aware of this possibility at admission. Undoubtedly, withdrawing ventilators or ICU support from patients who arrived earlier to save those with better prognosis will be extremely psychologically traumatic for clinicians — and some clinicians might refuse to do so. However, many guidelines agree that the decision to withdraw a scarce resource to save others is not an act of killing and does not require the patient’s consent. We agree with these guidelines that it is the ethical thing to do. Initially allocating beds and ventilators according to the value of maximizing benefits could help reduce the need for withdrawal. Recommendation 2: Irrespective of Recommendation 1, Critical Covid-19 interventions — testing, PPE, ICU beds, ventilators, therapeutics, and vaccines — should go first to front-line health care workers and others who care for ill patients and who keep critical infrastructure operating, particularly workers who face a high risk of infection and whose training makes them difficult to replace. These workers should be given priority not because they are somehow more worthy, but because of their instrumental value: they are essential to pandemic response. If physicians and nurses and RTs are incapacitated, all patients — not just those with Covid-19 — will suffer greater mortality and years of life lost. Whether health workers who need ventilators will be able to return to work is uncertain but giving them priority for ventilators recognizes their assumption of the high-risk work of saving others. Priority for critical workers must not be abused by prioritizing wealthy or famous persons or the politically powerful above first responders and medical staff — as has already happened for testing. Such abuses will undermine trust in the allocation framework. Recommendation 3: For patients with similar prognoses, equality should be invoked and operationalized through random allocation, such as a lottery, rather than a first-come, first-served allocation process. First-come, first-served is used for such resources as transplantable kidneys, where scarcity is long-standing, and patients can survive without the scarce resource. Conversely, treatments for coronavirus address urgent need, meaning that a first-come, first-served approach would unfairly benefit patients living nearer to health facilities. And first-come, first-served medication or vaccine distribution would encourage crowding and even violence during a period when social distancing is paramount. Finally, first-come, first-served approaches mean that people who happen to get sick later on, perhaps because of their strict adherence to recommended public health measures, are excluded from treatment, worsening outcomes without improving fairness. In the face of time pressure and limited information, random selection is also preferable to trying to make finer-grained prognostic judgments within a group of roughly similar patients. Recommendation 4: Prioritization guidelines should differ by intervention and should respond to changing scientific evidence. For instance, younger patients should not be prioritized for Covid-19 vaccines, which prevent disease rather than cure it, or for experimental post- or pre-exposure prophylaxis. Covid-19 outcomes have been significantly worse in older persons and those with chronic conditions. Invoking the value of maximizing saving lives justifies giving older persons priority for vaccines immediately after health care workers and first responders. If the vaccine supply is insufficient for patients in the highest risk categories — those over 60 years of age or with coexisting conditions — then equality supports using random selection, such as a lottery, for vaccine allocation. Invoking instrumental value justifies prioritizing younger patients for vaccines only if epidemiologic modeling shows that this would be the best way to reduce viral spread and the risk to others. Epidemiologic modeling is even more relevant in setting priorities for coronavirus testing. Federal guidance currently gives priority to health care workers and older patients but reserving some tests for public health surveillance could improve knowledge about Covid-19 transmission and help researchers target other treatments to maximize benefits. Conversely, ICU beds and ventilators are curative rather than preventive. Patients who need them face life-threatening conditions. Maximizing benefits requires consideration of prognosis — how long the patient is likely to live if treated — which may mean giving priority to younger patients and those with fewer coexisting conditions. This is consistent with the Italian guidelines that potentially assign a higher priority for intensive care access to younger patients with severe illness than to elderly patients. Determining the benefit-maximizing allocation of antivirals and other experimental treatments, which are likely to be most effective in patients who are seriously but not critically ill, will depend on scientific evidence. These treatments may produce the most benefit if preferentially allocated to patients who would fare badly on ventilation. Recommendation 5: People who participate in research to prove the safety and effectiveness of vaccines and therapeutics should receive some priority for Covid-19 interventions. Their assumption of risk during their participation in research helps future patients, and they should be rewarded for that contribution. These rewards will also encourage other patients to participate in clinical trials. Research participation, however, should serve only as a tiebreaker among patients with similar prognoses. Recommendation 6: There should be no difference in allocating scarce resources between patients with Covid-19 and those with other medical conditions. If the Covid-19 pandemic leads to absolute scarcity, that scarcity will affect all patients, including those with heart failure, cancer, and other serious and life-threatening conditions requiring prompt medical attention. Fair allocation of resources that prioritizes the value of maximizing benefits applies across all patients who need resources. For example, a doctor with an allergy who goes into anaphylactic shock and needs life-saving intubation and ventilator support should receive priority over Covid-19 patients who are not frontline health care workers. Approved by the CMA Board of Directors April 2020
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CMA Statement on Racism

https://policybase.cma.ca/en/permalink/policy14245
Date
2020-06-02
Topics
Ethics and medical professionalism
Health care and patient safety
  1 document  
Policy Type
Policy document
Date
2020-06-02
Topics
Ethics and medical professionalism
Health care and patient safety
Text
Racism is a structural determinant of health and drives health and social inequities. The recent incidents of anti-Black violence, racism and discrimination in the US and Canada also shed light on the structural inequities and racism that exist within the medical profession and the health system. The profession of medicine is grounded in respect for all people. This commitment recognizes that everyone has equal and inherent worth, the right to be valued and respected, and the right to be treated with dignity. It’s critical that our medical culture – and society more broadly – upholds these values. But today, we’re reminded that there’s much more to do as a profession, and as a global community, to get us there. Earlier this year, we launched our first-ever policy on equity and diversity in medicine Opens in a new window to help break down the many broad and systemic barriers that remain, to reduce discrimination and bias within our profession, and to create physically and psychologically safe environments for ourselves, our colleagues and our patients. Alongside this policy comes a commitment to holding ourselves accountable to recognizing and challenging behaviours, practices and conditions that hinder equity and diversity, including racism. Instances of racism, intolerance, exclusion, violence and discrimination have no place in medicine, and no place in our society. The Canadian Medical Association condemns racism in all its forms. Today, we stand alongside all those who have been affected by these appalling and inexcusable actions and beliefs. Dr. Sandy Buchman President, Canadian Medical Association
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Joint statement on preventing and resolving ethical conflicts involving health care providers and persons receiving care

https://policybase.cma.ca/en/permalink/policy202
Last Reviewed
2019-03-03
Date
1998-12-05
Topics
Ethics and medical professionalism
  1 document  
Policy Type
Policy document
Last Reviewed
2019-03-03
Date
1998-12-05
Topics
Ethics and medical professionalism
Text
JOINT STATEMENT ON PREVENTING AND RESOLVING ETHICAL CONFLICTS INVOLVING HEALTH CARE PROVIDERS AND PERSONS RECEIVING CARE This joint statement was developed cooperatively and approved by the Boards of Directors of the Canadian Healthcare Association, the Canadian Medical Association, the Canadian Nurses Association and the Catholic Health Association of Canada. Preamble The needs, values and preferences of the person receiving care should be the primary consideration in the provision of quality health care. Ideally, health care decisions will reflect agreement between the person receiving care and all others involved in his or her care. However, uncertainty and diverse viewpoints sometimes can give rise to disagreement about the goals of care or the means of achieving those goals. Limited health care resources and the constraints of existing organizational policies may also make it difficult to satisfy the person’s needs, values and preferences. The issues addressed in this statement are both complex and controversial. They are ethical issues in that they involve value preferences and arise where people of good will are uncertain of or disagree about the right thing to do when someone's life, health or well-being is threatened by disease or illness. Because everyone’s needs, values and preferences are different, and because disagreements can arise from many sources, policies for preventing and resolving conflicts should be flexible enough to accommodate a wide range of situations. Disagreements about health care decisions can arise between or among any of the following: the person receiving care, proxies,<1> family members, care providers and administrators of health care authorities, facilities or agencies. This joint statement deals primarily with conflicts between the person receiving care, or his or her proxy, and care providers. It offers guidance for the development of policies for preventing and resolving ethical conflicts about the appropriateness of initiating, continuing, withholding or withdrawing care or treatment. It outlines the basic principles to be taken into account in the development of such policies as well as the steps that should be followed in resolving conflicts. The sponsors of this statement encourage health care authorities, facilities and agencies to develop policies to deal with these and other types of conflict, for example, those that sometimes arise among care providers. I. Principles of the therapeutic relationship<2> Good therapeutic relationships are centered on the needs and informed choices of the person receiving care. Such relationships are based on respect and mutual giving and receiving. Observance of the following principles will promote good therapeutic relationships and help to prevent conflicts about the goals and means of care. 1. The needs, values and preferences of the person receiving care should be the primary consideration in the provision of quality health care. 2. A good therapeutic relationship is founded on mutual trust and respect between providers and recipients of care. When care providers lose this sense of mutuality, they become mere experts and the human quality in the relationship is lost. When persons receiving care lose this sense of mutuality, they experience a perceived or real loss of control and increased vulnerability. Because persons receiving care are often weakened by their illness and may feel powerless in the health care environment, the primary responsibility for creating a trusting and respectful relationship rests with the care providers. 3. Sensitivity to and understanding of the personal needs and preferences of persons receiving care, their family members and significant others is the cornerstone of a good therapeutic relationship. These needs and preferences are diverse and can be influenced by a range of factors including cultural, religious and socioeconomic backgrounds. 4. Open communication, within the confines of privacy and confidentiality, is also required. All those involved in decision-making should be encouraged to express their points of view, and these views should be respectfully considered. Care providers should ensure that they understand the needs, values and preferences of the person receiving care. To avoid misunderstanding or confusion, they should make their communications direct, clear and consistent. They should verify that the person receiving care understands the information being conveyed: silence should not be assumed to indicate agreement. The person receiving care should be provided with the necessary support, time and opportunity to participate fully in discussions regarding care. 5. The competent person<3> must be involved in decisions regarding his or her care. 6. The primary goal of care is to provide benefit to the person receiving care. The competent person has the right to determine what constitutes benefit in the given situation, whether with respect to physical, psychological, spiritual, social or other considerations. 7. Informed decision-making requires that the person receiving care or his or her proxy be given all information and support necessary for assessing the available options for care, including the potential benefits and risks of the proposed course of action and of the alternatives, including palliative care. 8. The competent person has the right to refuse, or withdraw consent to, any care or treatment, including life-saving or life-sustaining treatment. 9. Although parents or guardians are normally the primary decision-makers for their minor children, children should be involved in the decision-making process to the extent that their capacity allows, in accordance with provincial or territorial legislation. 10. When the person receiving care is incompetent, that is, lacking in adequate decision-making capacity with respect to care and treatment, every effort must be made to ensure that health care decisions are consistent with his or her known preferences. These preferences may be found in an advance directive or may have been communicated orally. In jurisdictions where the issue of decision-making concerning care and medical treatment for incompetent persons is specifically addressed in law, the requirements of that legislation should be met. 11. When an incompetent person’s preferences are not known and there is no family member or proxy to represent the person, decisions must be based on an attempt to ascertain the person's best interests, taking into account: (a) the person's diagnosis, prognosis and treatment options, (b) the person's known needs and values, (c) information received from those who are significant in the person's life and who could help in determining his or her best interests, and (d) aspects of the person's culture, religion or spirituality that could influence care and treatment decisions. 12. When conflicts arise despite efforts to prevent them, they should be resolved as informally as possible, moving to more formal procedures only when informal measures have been unsuccessful. 13. In cases of disagreement or conflict, the opinions of all those directly involved should be given respectful consideration. 14. Disagreements among health care providers about the goals of care and treatment or the means of achieving those goals should be clarified and resolved by the members of the health care team so as not to compromise their relationship with the person receiving care. Disagreements between health care providers and administrators with regard to the allocation of resources should be resolved within the facility or agency and not be debated in the presence of the person receiving care. Health care authorities, facilities and agencies should develop conflict resolution policies for dealing with such issues and monitor their use. 15. When the needs, values and preferences of the person receiving care cannot be met, he or she should be clearly and frankly informed of the reasons for this, including any factors related to resource limitations. 16. Health care providers should not be expected or required to participate in procedures that are contrary to their professional judgement<4> or personal moral values or that are contrary to the values or mission of their facility or agency.<5> Health care providers should declare in advance their inability to participate in procedures that are contrary to their professional or moral values. Health care providers should not be subject to discrimination or reprisal for acting on their beliefs. The exercise of this provision should never put the person receiving care at risk of harm or abandonment. 17. Health care providers have a responsibility to advocate together with those for whom they are caring in order that these persons will have access to appropriate treatment. II. Guidelines for the resolution of ethical conflicts Health care organizations should have a conflict resolution process in place to address problems that arise despite efforts to prevent them. There may be need for variations in the process to accommodate the needs of different settings (e.g., emergency departments, intensive care units, palliative care services, home or community care, etc.). The conflict resolution policy of a health care authority, facility or agency should incorporate the following elements, the sequence of which may vary depending on the situation. The policy should designate the person responsible for implementing each element. That person should work closely with the person receiving care or his or her proxy. Anyone involved in the conflict may initiate the resolution process. 1. Clarify the need for an immediate decision versus the consequences of delaying a decision. If, in an emergency situation, there is insufficient time to fully implement the process, it should be implemented as soon as possible. 2. Gather together those directly involved in the conflict; in addition to the person receiving care and/or his or her proxy, this might include various health care providers, family members, administrators, etc. 3. If necessary, choose a person not party to the conflict to facilitate discussions. It is imperative that this person be acceptable to all those involved and have the skills to facilitate open discussion and decision-making. 4. Identify and agree on the points of agreement and disagreement. While ensuring confidentiality, share among those involved all relevant medical and personal information, interpretations of the relevant facts, institutional or agency policies, professional norms and laws. 5. Establish the roles and responsibilities of each participant in the conflict. 6. Offer the person receiving care, or his or her proxy, access to institutional, agency or community resources for support in the conflict resolution process, e.g., a patient representative, chaplain or other resource person. 7. Determine if the group needs outside advice or consultation, e.g., a second opinion, use of an ethics committee or consultant or other resource. 8. Identify and explore all options and determine a time line for resolving the conflict. Ensure that all participants have the opportunity to express their views; the lack of expressed disagreement does not necessarily mean that decision-making is proceeding with the support or consent of all involved. 9. If, after reasonable effort, agreement or compromise cannot be reached through dialogue, accept the decision of the person with the right or responsibility for making the decision. If it is unclear or disputed who has the right or responsibility to make the decision, seek mediation, arbitration or adjudication. 10. If the person receiving care or his or her proxy is dissatisfied with the decision, and another care provider, facility or agency is prepared to accommodate the person's needs and preferences, provide the opportunity for transfer. 11. If a health care provider cannot support the decision that prevails as a matter of professional judgement or personal morality, allow him or her to withdraw without reprisal from participation in carrying out the decision, after ensuring that the person receiving care is not at risk of harm or abandonment. 12. Once the process is completed; review and evaluate: (a) the process, (b) the decision reached, and (c) implementation of the decision. The conclusions of the evaluation should be recorded and shared for purposes of education and policy development. III. Policy development Health care authorities, facilities and agencies are encouraged to make use of an interdisciplinary committee to develop two conflict resolution policies: one for conflicts among health care providers (including administrators) and the other for conflicts between care providers and persons receiving care. Membership on the committee should include care providers, consumers and administrators, with access to legal and ethics consultation. The committee should also develop a program for policy implementation. The successful implementation of the policy will require an organizational culture that encourages and supports the principles of the therapeutic relationship as outlined in this joint statement. The implementation program should include the education of all those who will be affected by the policy with regard to both the principles of the therapeutic relationship and the details of the conflict resolution policy. It should also include measures to ensure that persons receiving care and their families or proxy decision-makers have access to the policy and its use. The policy should be reviewed regularly and revised when necessary in light of relevant clinical, ethical and legal developments. Because policies and guidelines cannot cover all possible situations, appropriate consultation mechanisms should be available to address specific issues promptly as they arise. Notes 1. The term "proxy" is used broadly in this joint statement to identify those people who are entitled to make a care and treatment decision for an incompetent person (in some provinces or territories, the definition of proxy is provided in legislation). This decision should be based on the decision the person would have made for himself or herself, to the best of the proxy’s (substitute decision maker’s) knowledge; or if this is unknown, the decision should be made in the person’s best interest. 2. The term "therapeutic relationship" is used broadly in this document to include all professional interactions between care providers, individually or as a team, and recipients of care. 3. Competence can be difficult to assess because it is not always a constant state. A person may be competent to make decisions regarding some aspects of life but not others; as well, competence can be intermittent: a person may be lucid and oriented at certain times of the day and not at others. The legal definition and assessment of competence are governed by the provinces or territories. Health care providers should be aware of existing laws relevant to the assessment and documentation of incompetence (e.g., capacity to consent and age-of-consent legislation). 4. Professional judgement will take into account the standard of care that a facility or agency is committed to provide. 5. On this matter, cf. Guiding Principle 6 of the Joint Statement on Resuscitative Interventions (Update 1995), developed by the Canadian Healthcare Association, the Canadian Medical Association, the Canadian Nurses Association and the Catholic Health Association of Canada, “There is no obligation to offer a person futile or nonbeneficial treatment. Futile and nonbeneficial treatments are controversial concepts when applied to CPR (cardiopulmonary resuscitation). Policymakers should determine how these concepts should be interpreted in the policy on resuscitation, in light of the facility's mission, the values of the community it serves, and ethical and legal developments. For the purposes of this joint document and in the context of resuscitation,'futile' and 'nonbeneficial' are understood as follows. In some situations a physician can determine that a treatment is 'medically' futile or nonbeneficial because it offers no reasonable hope of recovery or improvement or because the person is permanently unable to experience any benefit. In other cases the utility and benefit of a treatment can only be determined with reference to the person's subjective judgement about his or her overall well-being. As a general rule a person should be involved in determining futility in his or her case. In exceptional circumstances such discussions may not be in the person's best interests. If the person is incompetent the principles for decision making for incompetent people should be applied.” © 1999, Canadian Healthcare Association, Canadian Medical Association, Canadian Nurses Association and Catholic Health Association of Canada. Permission is granted for noncommercial reproduction only. Copies of the joint statement can be obtained by contacting: Membership Services, Canadian Medical Association, PO Box 8650, Ottawa ON K1G 0G8, tel 888 855-2555, fax 613 236-8864 or by visiting the Web site www.cma.ca/inside/policybase (English) or www.cma.ca/inside-f/policybase (French); or Customer Services, Canadian Healthcare Association, 17 York Street, Ottawa ON K1N 0J6, tel 613 241-8005, x253, fax 613 241-9481, or by visiting the Web site www.canadian-healthcare.org; or Publication Sales, Canadian Nurses Association, 50 The Driveway, Ottawa ON K2P 1E2, tel 613 237-2133, fax 613 237-3520, or by visiting the Web site www.cna-nurses.ca; or Publications, Catholic Health Association of Canada, 1247 Kilborn Place, Ottawa ON K1H 6K9, 613 731-7148, fax 613 731-7797, or by visiting the Web site www.net-globe.com/chac/.
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Physician involvement in organ donation

https://policybase.cma.ca/en/permalink/policy596
Last Reviewed
2017-03-04
Date
1986-12-13
Topics
Ethics and medical professionalism
Resolution
BD87-03-76
That in conjunction with its provincial/territorial divisions, provincial health insurance programs be encouraged to include a specific listing for physician involvement in organ donation.
Policy Type
Policy resolution
Last Reviewed
2017-03-04
Date
1986-12-13
Topics
Ethics and medical professionalism
Resolution
BD87-03-76
That in conjunction with its provincial/territorial divisions, provincial health insurance programs be encouraged to include a specific listing for physician involvement in organ donation.
Text
That in conjunction with its provincial/territorial divisions, provincial health insurance programs be encouraged to include a specific listing for physician involvement in organ donation.
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