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CMA PolicyBase

Policies that advocate for the medical profession and Canadians


17 records – page 1 of 2.

Expanded scopes of practice

https://policybase.cma.ca/en/permalink/policy8912
Last Reviewed
2014-03-01
Date
2007-08-22
Topics
Ethics and medical professionalism
Health human resources
Resolution
GC07-98
The Canadian Medical Association urges national specialty societies, faculties of medicine and educational colleges to develop a nationally coordinated strategy to provide physicians with access to enhanced skills training for expanded scopes of practice.
Policy Type
Policy resolution
Last Reviewed
2014-03-01
Date
2007-08-22
Topics
Ethics and medical professionalism
Health human resources
Resolution
GC07-98
The Canadian Medical Association urges national specialty societies, faculties of medicine and educational colleges to develop a nationally coordinated strategy to provide physicians with access to enhanced skills training for expanded scopes of practice.
Text
The Canadian Medical Association urges national specialty societies, faculties of medicine and educational colleges to develop a nationally coordinated strategy to provide physicians with access to enhanced skills training for expanded scopes of practice.
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Evaluation of international medical graduates

https://policybase.cma.ca/en/permalink/policy8913
Last Reviewed
2014-03-01
Date
2007-08-22
Topics
Health human resources
Ethics and medical professionalism
Resolution
GC07-99
The Canadian Medical Association supports a national standardized assessment protocol to evaluate international medical graduates.
Policy Type
Policy resolution
Last Reviewed
2014-03-01
Date
2007-08-22
Topics
Health human resources
Ethics and medical professionalism
Resolution
GC07-99
The Canadian Medical Association supports a national standardized assessment protocol to evaluate international medical graduates.
Text
The Canadian Medical Association supports a national standardized assessment protocol to evaluate international medical graduates.
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Physician retention

https://policybase.cma.ca/en/permalink/policy8926
Last Reviewed
2014-03-01
Date
2007-08-22
Topics
Ethics and medical professionalism
Health human resources
Physician practice/ compensation/ forms
Resolution
GC07-112
The Canadian Medical Association will examine ways to increase flexibility in a physician's workplace to create a healthy work-life balance and to communicate the importance that such balance plays in physician retention.
Policy Type
Policy resolution
Last Reviewed
2014-03-01
Date
2007-08-22
Topics
Ethics and medical professionalism
Health human resources
Physician practice/ compensation/ forms
Resolution
GC07-112
The Canadian Medical Association will examine ways to increase flexibility in a physician's workplace to create a healthy work-life balance and to communicate the importance that such balance plays in physician retention.
Text
The Canadian Medical Association will examine ways to increase flexibility in a physician's workplace to create a healthy work-life balance and to communicate the importance that such balance plays in physician retention.
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Physician advocates

https://policybase.cma.ca/en/permalink/policy8927
Last Reviewed
2014-03-01
Date
2007-08-22
Topics
Ethics and medical professionalism
Health human resources
Resolution
GC07-113
The Canadian Medical Association will develop and advocate strongly for the implementation of policy to safeguard physicians from fear of reprisal and retaliation when speaking out as advocates for their patients and communities.
Policy Type
Policy resolution
Last Reviewed
2014-03-01
Date
2007-08-22
Topics
Ethics and medical professionalism
Health human resources
Resolution
GC07-113
The Canadian Medical Association will develop and advocate strongly for the implementation of policy to safeguard physicians from fear of reprisal and retaliation when speaking out as advocates for their patients and communities.
Text
The Canadian Medical Association will develop and advocate strongly for the implementation of policy to safeguard physicians from fear of reprisal and retaliation when speaking out as advocates for their patients and communities.
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Environmental stewardship

https://policybase.cma.ca/en/permalink/policy8936
Last Reviewed
2014-03-01
Date
2007-08-22
Topics
Ethics and medical professionalism
Health human resources
Health systems, system funding and performance
Population health/ health equity/ public health
Resolution
GC07-74
The Canadian Medical Association will respond to the challenge for a clean environment (air, water, soil, climate change) by encouraging: a. physicians to become spokespersons for environmental stewardship, including the discussion of these issues when appropriate with patients; b. the medical community to work with health care facilities to adopt and implement policies aimed at reducing or recycling waste in a safe and properly prescribed manner; c. physicians to adopt "green" measures in their practice environments and personal lifestyles; d. medical schools, residency programs and continuing medical education sessions to enhance their provision of educational programs on health and the environment; and e. the development of evidence-based information on health and environment issues.
Policy Type
Policy resolution
Last Reviewed
2014-03-01
Date
2007-08-22
Topics
Ethics and medical professionalism
Health human resources
Health systems, system funding and performance
Population health/ health equity/ public health
Resolution
GC07-74
The Canadian Medical Association will respond to the challenge for a clean environment (air, water, soil, climate change) by encouraging: a. physicians to become spokespersons for environmental stewardship, including the discussion of these issues when appropriate with patients; b. the medical community to work with health care facilities to adopt and implement policies aimed at reducing or recycling waste in a safe and properly prescribed manner; c. physicians to adopt "green" measures in their practice environments and personal lifestyles; d. medical schools, residency programs and continuing medical education sessions to enhance their provision of educational programs on health and the environment; and e. the development of evidence-based information on health and environment issues.
Text
The Canadian Medical Association will respond to the challenge for a clean environment (air, water, soil, climate change) by encouraging: a. physicians to become spokespersons for environmental stewardship, including the discussion of these issues when appropriate with patients; b. the medical community to work with health care facilities to adopt and implement policies aimed at reducing or recycling waste in a safe and properly prescribed manner; c. physicians to adopt "green" measures in their practice environments and personal lifestyles; d. medical schools, residency programs and continuing medical education sessions to enhance their provision of educational programs on health and the environment; and e. the development of evidence-based information on health and environment issues.
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Guidelines for Physicians in Interactions with Industry

https://policybase.cma.ca/en/permalink/policy9041
Last Reviewed
2019-03-03
Date
2007-12-01
Topics
Ethics and medical professionalism
Pharmaceuticals/ prescribing/ cannabis/ marijuana/ drugs
  1 document  
Policy Type
Policy document
Last Reviewed
2019-03-03
Date
2007-12-01
Replaces
Physicians and the pharmaceutical industry (Update 2001)
Topics
Ethics and medical professionalism
Pharmaceuticals/ prescribing/ cannabis/ marijuana/ drugs
Text
GUIDELINES FOR PHYSICIANS IN INTERACTIONS WITH INDUSTRY The history of health care delivery in Canada has included interaction between physicians and the pharmaceutical and health supply industries; this interaction has extended to research as well as to education. Physicians understand that they have a responsibility to ensure that their participation in such collaborative efforts is in keeping with their primary obligation to their patients and duties to society, and to avoid situations of conflict of interest where possible and appropriately manage these situations when necessary. They understand as well the need for the profession to lead by example by promoting physician-developed guidelines. The following guidelines have been developed by the CMA to serve as a resource tool for physicians in helping them to determine what type of relationship with industry is appropriate. They are not intended to prohibit or dissuade appropriate interactions of this type, which have the potential to benefit both patients and physicians. Although directed primarily to individual physicians, including residents, and medical students, the guidelines also apply to relationships between industry and medical organizations. General Principles 1. The primary objective of professional interactions between physicians and industry should be the advancement of the health of Canadians. 2. Relationships between physicians and industry are guided by the CMA's Code of Ethics and by this document. 3. The practising physician's primary obligation is to the patient. Relationships with industry are inappropriate if they negatively affect the fiduciary nature of the patient-physician relationship. 4. Physicians should resolve any conflict of interest between themselves and their patients resulting from interactions with industry in favour of their patients. In particular, they must avoid any self-interest in their prescribing and referral practices. 5. Except for physicians who are employees of industry, in relations with industry the physician should always maintain professional autonomy and independence. All physicians should remain committed to scientific methodology. 6. Those physicians with ties to industry have an obligation to disclose those ties in any situation where they could reasonably be perceived as having the potential to influence their judgment. Industry-Sponsored Research 7. A prerequisite for physician participation in all research activities is that these activities are ethically defensible, socially responsible and scientifically valid. The physician's primary responsibility is the well-being of the patient. 8. The participation of physicians in industry sponsored research activities must always be preceded by formal approval of the project by an appropriate ethics review body. Such research must be conducted according to the appropriate current standards and procedures. 9. Patient enrolment and participation in research studies must occur only with the full, informed, competent and voluntary consent of the patient or his or her proxy, unless the research ethics board authorizes an exemption to the requirement for consent. In particular, the enrolling physician must inform the potential research subject, or proxy, about the purpose of the study, its source of funding, the nature and relative probability of harms and benefits, and the nature of the physician's participation and must advise prospective subjects that they have the right to decline to participate or to withdraw from the study at any time, without prejudice to their ongoing care. 10. The physician who enrolls a patient in a research study has an obligation to ensure the protection of the patient's privacy, in accordance with the provisions of applicable national or provincial legislation and CMA's Health Information Privacy Code. If this protection cannot be guaranteed, the physician must disclose this as part of the informed consent process. 11. Practising physicians should not participate in clinical trials unless the study will be registered prior to its commencement in a publicly accessible research registry. 12. Because of the potential to influence judgment, remuneration to physicians for participating in research studies should not constitute enticement. It may cover reasonable time and expenses and should be approved by the relevant research ethics board. Research subjects must be informed if their physician will receive a fee for their participation and by whom the fee will be paid. 13. Finder's fees, whereby the sole activity performed by the physician is to submit the names of potential research subjects, should not be paid. Submission of patient information without their consent would be a breach of confidentiality. Physicians who meet with patients, discuss the study and obtain informed consent for submission of patient information may be remunerated for this activity. 14. Incremental costs (additional costs that are directly related to the research study) must not be paid by health care institutions or provincial or other insurance agencies regardless of whether these costs involve diagnostic procedures or patient services. Instead, they must be assumed by the industry sponsor or its agent. 15. When submitting articles to medical journals, physicians must state any relationship they have to companies providing funding for the studies or that make the products that are the subject of the study whether or not the journals require such disclosure. Funding sources for the study should also be disclosed. 16. Physicians should only be included as an author of a published article reporting the results of an industry sponsored trial if they have contributed substantively to the study or the composition of the article. 17. Physicians should not enter into agreements that limit their right to publish or disclose results of the study or report adverse events which occur during the course of the study. Reasonable limitations which do not endanger patient health or safety may be permissible. Industry-Sponsored Surveillance Studies 18. Physicians should participate only in post-marketing surveillance studies that are scientifically appropriate for drugs or devices relevant to their area of practice and where the study may contribute substantially to knowledge about the drug or device. Studies that are clearly intended for marketing or other purposes should be avoided. 19. Such studies must be reviewed and approved by an appropriate research ethics board. The National Council on Ethics in Human Research is an additional source of advice. 20. The physician still has an obligation to report adverse events to the appropriate body or authority while participating in such a study. Continuing Medical Education / Continuing Professional Development (CME/CPD) 21. This section of the Guidelines is understood to address primarily medical education initiatives designed for practicing physicians. However, the same principles will also apply for educational events (such as noon-hour rounds and journal clubs) which are held as part of medical or residency training. 22. The primary purpose of CME/CPD activities is to address the educational needs of physicians and other health care providers in order to improve the health care of patients. Activities that are primarily promotional in nature, such as satellite symposia, should be identified as such to faculty and attendees and should not be considered as CME/CPD. 23. The ultimate decision on the organization, content and choice of CME/CPD activities for physicians shall be made by the physician-organizers. 24. CME/CPD organizers and individual physician presenters are responsible for ensuring the scientific validity, objectivity and completeness of CME/CPD activities. Organizers and individual presenters must disclose to the participants at their CME/CPD events any financial affiliations with manufacturers of products mentioned at the event or with manufacturers of competing products. There should be a procedure available to manage conflicts once they are disclosed. 25. The ultimate decision on funding arrangements for CME/CPD activities is the responsibility of the physician-organizers. Although the CME/CPD publicity and written materials may acknowledge the financial or other aid received, they must not identify the products of the company(ies) that fund the activities. 26. All funds from a commercial source should be in the form of an unrestricted educational grant payable to the institution or organization sponsoring the CME/CPD activity. 27. Industry representatives should not be members of CME content planning committees. They may be involved in providing logistical support. 28. Generic names should be used in addition to trade names in the course of CME/CPD activities. 29. Physicians should not engage in peer selling. Peer selling occurs when a pharmaceutical or medical device manufacturer or service provider engages a physician to conduct a seminar or similar event that focuses on its own products and is designed to enhance the sale of those products. This also applies to third party contracting on behalf of industry. This form of participation would reasonably be seen as being in contravention of the CMA's Code of Ethics, which prohibits endorsement of a specific product. 30. If specific products or services are mentioned, there should be a balanced presentation of the prevailing body of scientific information on the product or service and of reasonable, alternative treatment options. If unapproved uses of a product or service are discussed, presenters must inform the audience of this fact. 31. Negotiations for promotional displays at CME/CPD functions should not be influenced by industry sponsorship of the activity. Promotional displays should not be in the same room as the educational activity. 32. Travel and accommodation arrangements, social events and venues for industry sponsored CME/CPD activities should be in keeping with the arrangements that would normally be made without industry sponsorship. For example, the industry sponsor should not pay for travel or lodging costs or for other personal expenses of physicians attending a CME/CPD event. Subsidies for hospitality should not be accepted outside of modest meals or social events that are held as part of a conference or meeting. Hospitality and other arrangements should not be subsidized by sponsors for personal guests of attendees or faculty, including spouses or family members. 33. Faculty at CME/CPD events may accept reasonable honoraria and reimbursement for travel, lodging and meal expenses. All attendees at an event cannot be designated faculty. Faculty indicates a presenter who prepares and presents a substantive educational session in an area where they are a recognized expert or authority. Electronic Continuing Professional Development (eCPD) 34. The same general principles which apply to "live, in person" CPD events, as outlined above, also apply to eCPD (or any other written curriculum-based CPD) modules. The term "eCPD" generally refers to accredited on-line or internet-based CPD content or modules. However, the following principles can also apply to any type of written curriculum based CPD. 35. Authors of eCPD modules are ultimately responsible for ensuring the content and validity of these modules and should ensure that they are both designed and delivered at arms'-length of any industry sponsors. 36. Authors of eCPD modules should be physicians with a special expertise in the relevant clinical area and must declare any relationships with the sponsors of the module or any competing companies. 37. There should be no direct links to an industry or product website on any web page which contains eCPD material. 38. Information related to any activity carried out by the eCPD participant should only be collected, used, displayed or disseminated with the express informed consent of that participant. 39. The methodologies of studies cited in the eCPD module should be available to participants to allow them to evaluate the quality of the evidence discussed. Simply presenting abstracts that preclude the participant from evaluating the quality of evidence should be avoided. When the methods of cited studies are not available in the abstracts, they should be described in the body of the eCPD module. 40. If the content of eCPD modules is changed, re-accreditation is required. Advisory/Consultation Boards 41. Physicians may be approached by industry representatives and asked to become members of advisory or consultation boards, or to serve as individual advisors or consultants. Physicians should be mindful of the potential for this relationship to influence their clinical decision making. While there is a legitimate role for physicians to play in these capacities, the following principles should be observed: A. The exact deliverables of the arrangement should be clearly set out and put in writing in the form of a contractual agreement. The purpose of the arrangement should be exclusively for the physician to impart specialized medical knowledge that could not otherwise be acquired by the hiring company, and should not include any promotional or educational activities on the part of the company itself. B. Remuneration of the physician should be reasonable and take into account the extent and complexity of the physician's involvement. C. Whenever possible, meetings should be held in the geographic locale of the physician or as part of a meeting which he/she would normally attend. When these arrangements are not feasible, basic travel and accommodation expenses may be reimbursed to the physician advisor or consultant. Meetings should not be held outside of Canada, with the exception of international boards. Clinical Evaluation Packages (Samples) 42. The distribution of samples should not involve any form of material gain for the physician or for the practice with which he or she is associated. 43. Physicians who accept samples or other health care products are responsible for recording the type and amount of medication or product dispensed. They are also responsible for ensuring their age-related quality and security and their proper disposal. Gifts 44. Practising physicians should not accept personal gifts of any significant monetary or other value from industry. Physicians should be aware that acceptance of gifts of any value has been shown to have the potential to influence clinical decision making. Other Considerations 45. These guidelines apply to relationships between physicians and all commercial organizations, including but not limited to manufacturers of medical devices, nutritional products and health care products as well as service suppliers. 46. Physicians should not dispense pharmaceuticals or other products unless they can demonstrate that these cannot be provided by an appropriate other party, and then only on a cost-recovery basis. 47. Physicians should not invest in industries or related undertakings if this might inappropriately affect the manner of their practice or their prescribing behaviour. 48. Practising physicians affiliated with pharmaceutical companies should not allow their affiliation to influence their medical practice inappropriately. 49. Practising physicians should not accept a fee or equivalent consideration from pharmaceutical manufacturers or distributors in exchange for seeing them in a promotional or similar capacity. 50. Practising physicians may accept patient teaching aids appropriate to their area of practice provided these aids carry at most the logo of the donor company and do not refer to specific therapeutic agents, services or other products. Medical Students and Residents 51. The principles in these guidelines apply to physicians-in training as well as to practising physicians. 52. Medical curricula should deal explicitly with the guidelines by including educational sessions on conflict of interest and physician-industry interactions.
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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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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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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