Bringing to life a curriculum around assisted death is the first step

Although it may be the elephant in the room, this controversial medical advancement needs to be addressed 

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It’s a difficult subject to talk about, but the contentiousness of physician-assisted death may be all the more reason to normalize education around it. 

In June, federal legislation was introduced that legalized and regulated medical assistance in dying. Although students may still be divided on the issue, a University of Ottawa professor is pushing for education about the newly-legalized procedure for first-year medical students.

The legalization of assisted death represents far more than a medical advancement — it represents a seismic shift in how we view death. But when it comes to discussing practices of assisted death in medical schools, personal morals belong outside the classroom.  

Generating careful procedure and guidance for those choosing assisted death begins with breaking the ice. Regardless of students’ personal morals when approaching the new legislation, it’s still a patient’s legal right.

There’s no better time to be introducing this discussion than in first year of medical school. Although still fresh to the profession, prompt awareness is key to further normalizing discussion and procedure around assisted death.

Early exposure to the possibilities of assisted death may also help strengthen a patient’s confidence in the medical system’s ability to adapt to large shifts, regardless of personal morals. For people living with a chronic illness, they need to be entirely confident in their physician’s training to understand and provide them with their choices.

With federal movement towards legalization of assisted death beginning over a year ago, it’s a surprise that a road to educate medical students around it wasn’t paved earlier.

The University of Ottawa’s new curriculum is a step in the right direction.

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