Dozens of Canadian doctors who have initially signed up to provide lethal medications to patients have now backed out and want their names taken off the list, according to medical officials.
In Ontario, at least 24 doctors have asked to be removed from a voluntary list of physicians who are willing to participate in Canada's Medical Aid in Dying (MAID) law, which was passed in June. Another 30 doctors have requested to be put on temporary hold, according to National Post.
The doctors were not required to provide a reason, but some have said they now want "a reflection period to decide whether medical assistance in dying is a service they want to provide," according to a health ministry spokesman.
Dr. Jeff Blackmer, the CMA's vice-president of medical professionalism, said that he cannot disclose the exact number of doctors opting out, but he asserted that "it's enough that it's been noted at a systemic level."
"We're seeing individuals, or groups of physicians who are participating and really feel like they're alleviating pain, alleviating suffering," he remarked.
"And then we're seeing doctors who go through one experience and it's just overwhelming, it's too difficult, and those are the ones who say, 'take my name off the list. I can't do any more,'" he went on to say.
As of Feb. 17, 137 doctors in Ontario have volunteered to participate in assisted suicide. Of those, 30 doctors are only willing to assess a patient's eligibility and not administer lethal injection or prescribe life-ending medication.
Under federal law, euthanasia and assisted suicide is allowed for patients with a "grievous and irremediable" condition and "enduring suffering." But the law limits the procedure to people whose death is "reasonably foreseeable."
Alex Schadenberg, director of the Euthanasia Prevention Coalition, was not surprised by the news that doctors are withdrawing from the euthanasia program. "It's counter-intuitive to the human person to kill someone," he said.
He predicts that only a few doctors in Canada would be willing to perform the procedure and all the other doctors would be forced to refer the patients to them.
Last year, several Canadian hospitals have announced that they will not be participating in the euthanasia program due to their religious convictions.