October 31, 2018 3:09 pm

Quebec physicians to Health Canada: Modify regulations for medically assisted dying

Quebec's college of physicians is sounding the alarm over a document it says will be used to gather statistics, rather than improving end of life care. Wednesday, Oct. 31, 2018.

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Quebec’s College of Physicians (CMQ) is sounding the alarm over new federal regulations coming into effect Thursday on the monitoring of medically assisted dying.

At a press conference in Montreal, doctors argued that the federal law fails to take into account Quebec’s pre-existing regulatory framework.

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“Quebec is in a particular situation, where since 2014, we have our own end of life care that permits medical aid in dying (MAID),” said Dr. Yves Robert.

READ MORE: Montreal doctor fighting assisted-dying law in Quebec

Doctors fear the new provision will add to their administrative duties, which could in the long run hurt patients trying to access services.

“To add an another form of declaration at the federal level will mean, in some instances, duplicating what is done in Quebec, but in a less stringent way,” Robert said, explaining the federal document is designed to collect data and not to improve end of life care.

“Only statistics will result of this monitoring and no evaluation of the quality of practice,” he said.

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The college is urging Health Canada and Quebec’s health minister to work together to come up with a single document of declaration that would fulfill the needs of both levels of government.

The college said it was encouraged by news that talks are in the works and a new form could be available in the near future.

READ MORE: Halifax woman plans to die on Thursday, says Ottawa is forcing early death on her

In the meantime, however, it is asking its members to abstain from filing the federal paperwork, despite a provision that could see doctors facing prosecution.

“A physician who knowingly doesn’t fill the federal form could be prosecuted and be sentenced to a jail sentence that could go up to two years,” Robert said, calling the provision “surprising and ironic.”

“In the 2016 C-14 Law, we decriminalized MAID and we are creating a new crime — not filling out a form for the federal government,” Robert said.

WATCH: Fighting to die: is medically assisted death criteria too vague?

READ MORE: Medically-assisted deaths rise nearly 30 per cent in second half of 2017

In addition to possibly contravening Quebec laws, the form also raises privacy concerns, as data collected could be used to identify both patients and doctors.

“The content of the federal form may not respect two laws in Quebec,” Robert explained. “The End of Life Care law, where there are provisions to protect the privacy of information for patients and the Health Insurance Act, where the health insurance number can not be used for other purposes than those for which it is provided to the citizen.”

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