News Release

Physician-Assisted Death: College Consults on Interim Guidance

Dec 07, 2015

The College of Physicians and Surgeons of Ontario today released for consultation its draft Interim Guidance on Physician-Assisted Death. The draft document, approved for consultation at the December 3rd Council meeting, has been developed to ensure that Ontario physicians are aware of their obligations and the CPSO’s expectations when physician-assisted death becomes legal in February 2016.

“We felt it critical to have this guidance in place as there is currently no legislation to guide patients and physicians,” said College President Dr.  Joel Kirsh. “The public and the profession need to be confident that we have given careful consideration to this important issue, and have provided guidance that is informative and balanced.”

The draft document includes:

  • Professional and legal obligations articulated in College policies and legislation that apply in the physician-assisted death context;
  • The criteria for physician-assisted death as set out by the Supreme Court of Canada; and
  • Guidance for physicians on practice-related elements specific to the provision of physician-assisted death.

Conscientious objection is one of the key issues addressed in the draft Interim Guidance.  In the absence of legislation to guide patients and physicians, the draft Interim Guidance document directs physicians to comply with the College’s general position on conscientious objection, as set out in the Professional Obligations and Human Rights policy. Consistent with that policy, physicians do not have to provide services that conflict with their conscience or religious beliefs. Where a physician declines to provide physician-assisted death for reasons of conscience or religion, he or she must make an effective referral in a timely manner. The draft Interim Guidance document reinforces that Ontario doctors have a continuing positive obligation to their patients and must not abandon them or impede patient access to care.

This draft document is open to feedback from the general public, physicians, and other health-care professionals until January 11, 2016. To read it in full and provide your comments, please visit the CPSO Interim Guidance on Physician-Assisted Death consultation page.

“We encourage the public and the profession to provide us with their feedback,” urged Dr. Kirsh. “Although we have a shorter than usual consultation period to ensure we have this guidance in place in time, all feedback will be carefully considered.”
Should the Supreme Court grant an extension, the consultation timeline will be extended.

Council also approved three other consultations, including:

For more information or to see the full list of College consultations, please visit our Consultations page on our website.

Media Inquiries:
Kathryn Clarke
416-967-2600 Ext. 378