Doctors Have an Alarmingly High Suicide Rate, and No One Is Sure How to Help Them


Ed Cara

Medical doctors are more likely to die from suicide than members of any other profession in the US, suggests new research presented this week at the annual meeting of the American Psychiatric Association. And worse than that, few interventions seem to have helped make these suicides less common.

Studies have consistently shown that doctors die from suicide at a higher rate annually than people in any other profession, and some research has found that a majority of medical professionals suffer from serious work stress and burnout. But the authors behind this latest work wanted to not only get a clearer picture of how often these deaths happen, but whether any programs have successfully helped lowered rates. So they examined relevant, peer-reviewed studies dealing with both issues over the past 10 years. . . [Full Text]

116 Victorian patients refuse lifesaving treatment

The Advertiser

Grant McAurthur

FOUR Victorians a week are taking legal action to prevent doctors giving them lifesaving treatment, with the number expected to multiply next year when new regulations make refusing care easier.

As the Victorian parliament prepares to debate voluntary euthanasia laws in coming months, the Herald Sun can reveal 116 patients have already used legally binding certificates to ban hospitals prolonging their lives this year; however, the measures stop short of assisting them to die.

The issue arose last month when a failed suicide pact saw emergency doctors at Monash Medical Centre forced to save an elderly patient against her wishes because no legally binding Refusal of Treatment Certificate had been lodged to reinforce the demands. . . [Full text]


Project asks Canadian MPs, Senators to stop coercion in homicide, suicide

News Release

For Immediate Release

Protection of Conscience Project

“If it is ‘unacceptable’ for Members of Parliament to use physical force against each other, surely it is “unacceptable” for state institutions or others to use the force of law to compel people to be parties to inflicting death upon others, and to punish those who refuse.”

That is the message over 400 Canadian Members of Parliament and Senators returning to Ottawa will find on their desks in a letter from the Protection of Conscience Project.  The letters began to arrive Friday morning and should be waiting for MPs and Senators returning to Parliament to resume sitting on Monday.

The Project is proposing an amendment to the government’s Bill C-14, which is intended to allow medical and nurse practitioners to provide euthanasia and assisted suicide in accordance with the ruling of the Supreme Court of Canada in Carter v. Canada (Attorney General).

“Writing directly to individual legislators is a very unusual step,” said Sean Murphy, Administrator of the Protection of Conscience Project.  The letter was sent because of the gravity of the issue, and because the Project’s submission on Bill C-14 – like many others – was not distributed to members of the Standing Committee on Justice and Human Rights before it concluded its deliberations on the bill.

“Ironically, perhaps,” states the letter, “what the Protection of Conscience proposes is not a protection of conscience amendment.”

“Instead, the amendment is limited to the criminal law, which is strictly and fully within the jurisdiction of the Parliament of Canada.”

In making the argument that the criminal law should prohibit coerced participation in homicide and suicide, the letter refers to the conduct of Prime Minister Justin Trudeau the House of Commons on 18 May, which caused an uproar in the House and delayed debate on Bill C-14.

“The delay caused by the Prime Minister has made it possible to make this one last effort to reach legislators,” said Murphy, “and his conduct has enabled the Project to make its point in a very practical way.”


Sean Murphy, Administrator

Conscientious refusal to kill deserves the protection of law. Bill C-14 doesn’t provide it.

News Release
For immediate release
Print | Audio

Protection of Conscience Project

In light of the assisted suicide/euthanasia bill introduced by the government of Canada (Bill C-14),1 it is necessary to emphatically reaffirm that conscientious refusal to kill people is a manifestation of essential humanity that deserves the protection of law.

Notwithstanding the assurances of Canada’s Minister of Health,2 Bill C-14 does not provide that protection. The government is deliberately ignoring the ongoing coercion of health care providers to compel participation in euthanasia, and Bill C-14 will allow coercion to continue.

The bill follows upon a report from a parliamentary Special Joint Committee formed to advise the government on a legislative response to the Supreme Court ruling in Carter v. Canada.3 Bill C-14 does not incorporate the Committee’s more radical recommendations. It does not, for example, make euthanasia and assisted suicide available as therapies for mental illness.4

However, it does indicate that the government intends to pursue this and other Committee recommendations.5 Two of them assert the authority of the state to command the use of deadly force: not merely to authorize it, but to command it.

The Special Joint Committee recommended that physicians unwilling to kill patients or help them commit suicide should be forced to find someone willing to do so. It also recommended that publicly funded facilities, like hospices and hospitals, should be forced to kill patients or help them commit suicide, even if groups operating the facilities object.6

The federal government cannot do this because the regulation of health professions and health care institutions is within provincial jurisdiction. Hence, the Committee urged the federal government to “work with the provinces” to implement this coercive regime.6 Translation: get willing hands in the provinces to do the dirty work of coercion – and take the heat for it.

Now, the federal government can prevent such coercion because it has exclusive jurisdiction in criminal law. It can enact a law to prevent powerful groups, professions, or state institutions from forcing people to be parties to homicide and suicide. It can prevent those in power from punishing health care providers who refuse to arrange for their patients to be killed or helped commit suicide.

The federal government can do this, but Bill C-14 does not do it. Instead, it makes possible the coercive regime recommended by the Special Joint Committee.

And this is deliberate, because the Prime Minister and Minister of Health know full well that coercion and intimidation to force participation in euthanasia and assisted suicide are already occurring in Canada, notably in Quebec7,8,9,10 and Ontario.11 ,Their bill “works with” willing hands in Ontario and Quebec by allowing coercion and intimidation to continue – and to spread.

It is true that the bill’s preamble states that the government will “respect the personal convictions of health care providers.”

But – aside from the fact that preambles have no legal effect12 – what is that worth?

After all, the Special Joint Committee claimed that respect for freedom of conscience is exemplified by their recommendation that, “at a minimum,” objecting physicians should be forced to find colleagues willing to kill their patients.6 Behind this Orwellian perversion lies the Committee’s more astonishing premise: that the state can legitimately order people to become parties to homicide and suicide, and punish them if they refuse.

That is outrageous, indefensible and dangerous. It is not a mere “limitation” of fundamental freedoms, but an egregious attack on them. It is a grave violation of human dignity that deserves only the utter contempt of a free people.

The Prime Minister and a great many people in positions of power and influence need to be reminded of this as we approach the deadline for the proclamation of Bill C-14: the anniversary of the Allied landings at Normandy.

Whatever else it might decide about euthanasia and assisted suicide, parliament should make it the law of the land that no one and no institution in Canada can be forced to be a party to homicide or suicide, and no one will be punished or disadvantaged for refusing to do so.”13


S.T. Murphy, Administrator

1. Bill C-14, An Act to amend the Criminal Code and to make related amendments to other Acts (medical assistance in dying) (Accessed 2016-04-20) (Hereinafter “Bill C-14”).

2. “’Under this bill, no health care provider will be required to provide medical assistance in dying,’” Health Minister Jane Philpott told reporters Thursday. Laucius, J. “Groups worry new assisted-dying legislation doesn’t protect physicians’ consciences.” Ottawa Citizen, 14 April, 2016 (Accessed 2016-04-14) Emphasis added.  The statement does not mean that health care providers cannot be forced to become parties to homicide or suicide.

3. Carter v. Canada (Attorney General), 2015 SCC 5 (Accessed 2015-06-27)

4. Medical Assistance in Dying: A Patient-Centred Approach. Report of the Special Joint Committee on Physician Assisted Dying (February, 2016) (Hereinafter “SJC Report”) p. 13-14; Recommendations 3,4, p. 45. (Accessed 2016-03-09).

5. Bill C-14, Preamble, final paragraph.

6. SJC Report, Recommendations 10-11, p. 36.

7. Supreme Court of Canada, 385591, Lee Carter, et al. v. Attorney General of Canada, et al. (British Columbia) (Civil) (By Leave): Robert W. Staley (Counsel for the Catholic Civil Rights League, Faith and Freedom Alliance, and Protection of Conscience Project) Oral Submission, [455:48/491:20].

8. Canadian Press, “Gaétan Barrette insists dying patients must get help to ease suffering.” CBC News, 2 September, 2016 (Accessed 2016-04-20).

9. Robert Y. “L’objection de conscience.” Collège des médecins du Québec, 10 November, 2015. (Accessed 2016-04-20).

10. The Canadian Press, “Justin Trudeau, Philippe Couillard hail era of co-operation after meeting in Quebec City: Prime Minister praises Quebec’s approach on controversial topic of medically-assisted deaths.” CBC News, 11 December, 2015 (Accessed 2016-04-15).

11. College of Physicians and Surgeons of Ontario, Interim Guidance on Physician Assisted Death (January, 2016) (Accessed 2016-04-15).

12. University of Alberta, Centre for Constitutional Studies, The Constitution: Preamble (Accessed 2016-04-15).

13. Submission of the Protection of Conscience Project to the Special Joint Committee on Physician Assisted Dying (31 January, 2016)

Some Quebec doctors let suicide victims die though treatment was available: college

National Post

Graeme Hamilton

MONTREAL  –  Quebec’s College of Physicians has issued an ethics bulletin to its members after learning that some doctors were allowing suicide victims to die when life-saving treatment was available.

The bulletin says the college learned last fall that, “in some Quebec hospitals, some people who had attempted to end their lives through poisoning were not resuscitated when, in the opinion of certain experts, a treatment spread out over a few days could have saved them with no, or almost no, aftereffects.”

It goes on to spell out a physician’s ethical and legal duty to provide care, even to patients seeking to end their own lives.

Yves Robert, the college’s secretary, told the National Post that an unspecified number of doctors were interpreting suicide attempts as an implicit refusal of treatment. They “refused to provide the antidote that could have saved a life. This was the real ethical issue,” he said. . . [Full text]


Pharmacists for Life criticizes BC College of Pharmacists

News Release

Pharmacists for Life (Canada)

Pharmacists for Life International/Canada opposes the  controversial policy decision by the College of Pharmacists of British Columbia in which pharmacists in that province will be facing increased pressure to be distributors of death-causing products and services.

Mr. Michael Izzotti, Coordinator of PFLI/Canada, stated in an information bulletin today that “to supply death causing products and services from a pharmacy (a health care facility) flies in the face of the promotion of appropriate practices the pharmaceutical profession has engaged in for the last 15-20years”.

Mr. Izzotti further stated that “the push by the College of Pharmacists of BC to pressure the professionals that they regulate to supply the controversial products and services that the College suggests, represents a travesty in  health care”.  This is in direct contradiction to the Hippocratic Oath which many noble and honorable medical practitioners have taken and are committed to follow.

A recent BC College bulletin article, “Ethics in Practice”,1 suggests that pharmacists may have a conscientious or moral objection to future services that “might expand to include, preparation of drugs to assist voluntary or involuntary suicide, cloning, genetic manipulation or even execution”. These products & services and some others mentioned in that article in fact are not  necessarily “recognized” nor “legitimate” services to be expected from a pharmacy.

In light of the above concerns, and considering that similar concerns are arising in Alberta,  PFLI/Canada extends it support to Alberta’s Bill 212 prepared by Julius Yankowsky, which would insure Human Rights protection regarding Freedom of     Conscience to all health care workers.  In addition, PFLI/Canada encourages federal     conscience legislation to be enacted.

Notes 1. Bulletin of the College of Pharmacists of B.C. Mar/Apr 2000, Vol. 25, No.2

For further information, please call Michael Izzotti, Coordinator PFLI/Canada Tel: (905)528-4828 Fax (905)528-5593 or Email-

Pharmacists for Life International (Canada) Information Bulletin April 12/00

Due to continuing discussions caused by a controversial policy decision by the College of  Pharmacists of British Columbia in which pharmacists in that province will be facing  increased pressure to be distributors of death-causing products and services, PFLI/Canada  felt it necessary to make these statements at this time. Pharmacists have traditionally been known, trusted and respected for being providers of life saving,     health-maintaining-and-restoring products and services, however, the College in B.C. is  now suggesting that pharmacists should be involved in the provision of products for ending the life of human beings as well.

The 1st week of May is the scheduled date for certain “trained” pharmacists to  be the providers of the abortifacient Morning After Pill with or without a prescription from a doctor. A recent BC College bulletin article, “Ethics in Practice”, suggests that pharmacists may have a conscientious or moral objection to future services that “might expand to include, preparation of drugs to assist voluntary or involuntary suicide, cloning, genetic manipulation or even execution”. These products  & services and some others mentioned in that article in fact are not necessarily  “recognized” nor “legitimate” services to be expected from a pharmacy.

To supply death causing products and services from a pharmacy (a health care facility)  flies in the face of the promotion of appropriate practices the pharmaceutical profession  has engaged in for the last 15-20years.  These appropriate practices include: encouraging pharmacists to provide more cognitive services, (e.g. being a drug information resource for the community, resolving drug related problems, providing increased patient counselling etc); other practices include, emphasis to provide greater communication with the public and to promote proper pharmaceutical care for all human beings especially those most vulnerable and needing our unique knowledge and     skills. These vulnerable people should include, the child in utero, the elderly and     disabled people.

The push by the College of Pharmacists of BC for pharmacists to supply the controversial products and services, noted above, represents a travesty in health care. It is in direct contradiction to the Hippocratic oath which many noble and honourable medical practitioners have taken and are committed to follow.

The policy decision, named above, of the College of Pharmacists of B.C. should be     withdrawn because it causes a negative influence on organizations who sponsor provision of  pharmaceutical services from their outlets, and a damaging and unhealthy image to our honourable and dignified profession.

It would be much appreciated if these organizations would rather continue to encourage and exhort practitioners in our profession to be the providers of proper pharmaceutical health care services to the public as they have done in the past.

For further information, please call Michael Izzotti, Coordinator, PFLI/Canada, 905-528-4828

British Columbia pharmacists ‘must refer or dispense’

The Canadian Medical Association Journal announced that 500 pharmacists in British Columbia would be dispensing the ‘morning after pill’ without a prescription. A bulletin from the College of Pharmacists of B.C. (March-April 2000) stated that pharmacists with conscientious objections to dispensing the drug would be required to refer patients, or dispense the drug themselves if that was not possible. The bulletin also noted that future pharmacy services might expand to include drugs for suicide, cloning, genetic manipulation or execution.