Quebec’s College of Physicians says no decline in standard for MAID as numbers soar

Quebec’s College of Physicians has responded to concerns from the independent body that monitors medical aid in dying in the province, saying it is not seeing a decline in the standards for providing the procedure.

In recent weeks, Dr. Michel Bureau, head of Quebec’s commission on end-of-life care, has expressed several concerns about the growing frequency of the practice in the province, as well as the standard for providing it. 

“We see, more and more, that the cases receiving [MAID] are approaching the limits of the law,” Bureau said last week.

Earlier this month, Bureau’s commission sent a memo to doctors reminding them that only patients who have a serious and incurable disease, who are suffering and who have experienced irreversible decline in their condition can receive MAID.

Bureau has also said he’s witnessed a slight increase in the number of cases that violate Quebec’s end-of-life legislation.

Mauril Gaudreault, the president of the province’s college of physicians (CMQ), says the memo caused a great stir among doctors who offer the procedure. 

“Doctors regularly contact us to express their concern about providing the various end-of-life treatments, and in some cases, even confide in us that they no longer wish to perform them for fear of reprisals,” he wrote in a memo, which will be sent out to doctors Friday. 

That’s why, he said, he felt it was important to write a note of his own to his members, telling them that while the college acknowledges the commission’s concerns, it is not aware of evidence that corroborates them.

Inappropriate to suggest MAID too frequent: CMQ

In the commission’s last annual report, which covered a period between spring 2021 and spring 2022, it said 15 out of 3,663 doctor-assisted deaths in Quebec didn’t respect the law.

In an interview, CMQ’s Gaudreault noted that the files forwarded to the college were analyzed by a committee of experts, and that none of these reports were referred to a disciplinary board.

Furthermore, he said he felt it inappropriate to suggest that there are too many cases of MAID in Quebec, which is on track to finish the year with seven per cent of all deaths recorded as doctor-assisted — more than anywhere else in the world, according to the commission. 

“The college will ensure that nothing discourages physicians from administering MAID or hinders access to it for those who need it and are entitled to it,” he said. 

Gaudreault said communication tools and a webinar are being prepared for professionals and the public to clear up any confusion about Quebec’s end-of-life legislation. 

Leave a Comment