In latest CMA move, doctors have chosen politics over medicine
By Paul Schratz
Canada’s doctors voted recently to take a political rather than medical position that human life begins at birth, in the process closing their eyes to science and the evidence of their own senses.
It was a move of pure politics and obviously an attempt
to steer clear of MP Stephen Woodworth’s Motion 312, which would review Canada’s
400-year-old definition of “human” that is based on English
common law. . . .
So they’ve chosen the intellectually indefensible position that
an unborn child, moments away from birth, is not human, which essentially
means scores of medical textbooks, not to mention the entire field of
fetal medicine, now need to be retired. After all, if doctors who are
removing tumours or repairing spinal cords on unborn babies aren’t
working on humans, one wonders why they would spend years training to
be doctors rather than veterinarians.
It’s par for the CMA, however, which has been developing
a habit recently of wading into political issues. At its annual meeting
in Yellowknife the MDs also passed a motion calling for a public debate
that would lead to a free vote in the House of Commons on the issue of
That echoes an editorial in their CMA Journal last month
which called for a national debate on death and dying. The country’s leading
medical journal said it’s time for Canadians to debate whether
we are prepared to embrace “therapeutic homicide.”
Now if the doctors truly want to engage in politics, as is becoming more
evident, the least we should be able to expect from them, besides some
respect for science, is consistency.
So why is it that the same doctors who, when it comes to euthanasia,
are in favour of debate and open to rethinking when life ends, are at
the same time opposed to discussion that might lead to a rethinking of
when life begins?
It’s especially curious since the issue of end-of-life care in
Canada has been studied and voted on countless times — as recently
as last November’s Parliamentary Committee on Compassionate
and Palliative Care, which called for improvements to palliative care
and a commitment to a national suicide prevention strategy. The CMA welcomed
that report, saying “End-of-life care is an area that requires
Indeed, through the years and all the many debates, reports, and votes
on euthanasia and palliative care, there has been one consistent conclusion:
parliamentarians and Canadians want more and better end-of-life care,
While the doctors want to continually debate end-of-life
care, they curiously have no appetite for debate the one time a politician
questions why we’re
still using a centuries-old definition of human life that says it begins
at birth, against all scientific and logical evidence to the contrary.
Sadly, the same can now be said about Canadian doctors in 2012.
Schratz is communications director for the Archdiocese of Vancouver.