Where There Are Rights, There Are Also Obligations - Letter to the Editor from Dr. Yun Jen
Thursday 03 September 2015
Letter to the Editor from Dr. Yun Jen,
President of the Québec Medical Association
Where There Are Rights, There Are Also Obligations
Montréal, September 2, 2015, letter to the editor released to the media by the QMA – As President of the Québec Medical Association (QMA), I am concerned by the decision of palliative care hospices and centres to refuse to provide their clientele with medical aid in dying. The Act respecting end-of-life care has clear provisions on what patients have a right to expect: the right to request access to palliative or end-of-life care, subject to the specific requirements established by the Act. The Act also sets out the rights of physicians, specifically, the right to refuse to provide medical aid in dying for patients who make such a request, for reasons of conscience. Yes, physicians have the right to refuse, but they also have the obligation to refer these patients to resources that can accommodate their request. The rights of physicians do not take precedence over the rights of patients.
Physicians have two obligations when it comes to the issue of end-of-life care. First, they have an ethical obligation to ensure follow-up for their patients. They cannot simply refuse this right without providing support for their patients. Second, they are subject to the legal obligation under Bill 52 to transfer the patient’s request so that it can be accommodated.
We need to ensure that the physician’s right to refuse does not become a denial of the patient’s rights. The Act respecting end-of-life care, which will soon come into force, is a model of mutual respect between patients and physicians. Physicians have the duty to ensure a continuity of care for their patients. As President of the Québec Medical Association, I invite physicians to respect their social contract with society and their patients.
Yun Jen, MD FRCPC
Québec Medical Association