Alberta doctor receives award for role in developing medically assisted dying framework

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Dr. Jim Silvius, based in Calgary, will receive the 2017 CMA’s Dr. William Marsden Award in Medical Ethics, which is “presented to recognize a CMA member who has demonstrated exemplary leadership, commitment and dedication to the cause of advancing and promoting excellence in the field of medical ethics in Canada.”

Silvius played a key role in creating Alberta’s doctor-assisted dying framework following a 2015 Supreme Court ruling that paved the way for the practice.

Silvius helped create a process that is now being replicated in other provinces.

“I think part of the reason we were successful was that we took into account the diversity of opinion around the issue and ensured the rights of everybody would be protected by what we put in place,” Silvius said in a media release Wednesday.

“We tried to design a system for the entire province, not just Alberta Health Services, and one that works for everyone – including those who object to medical assistance in dying.”

Silvius was nominated for the award by the Alberta Medical Association.

“There was a core group of about a dozen people who worked their hearts out on this,” Silvius said. “The credit is not mine alone – by a long shot.”

Legislation authorizing physician-assisted death in Canada came into force in 2016.

One of the key features of Alberta’s response to the new legislation was to create a single point of contact for patients, families and health-care providers through the Medical Assistance in Dying Care Coordination Service. Alberta was the first jurisdiction to create such a service, according to Alberta Health Services.

“The advent of medical assistance in dying is one of the biggest changes we’ve ever seen to medical practice in Canada,” said Dr. Verna Yiu, AHS president and CEO.

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