The recent World Cancer Congress, convened every two years by the Union for International Cancer Control (UICC), included a Big Debate this year in Geneva. This year’s debate was on Should Medical Aid in Dying (MAID) be Legal and Available for all Cancer Patients in all Countries? This debate was moderated by WHPCA Executive Director, Dr Stephen Connor. The proposition was taken by oncologist Dr Cameron McClaren, from Dying with Dignity Victoria and the con position was taken by palliative care physician Baroness Ilora Finlay.
The lively debate focused on five questions:
1. Should all cancer patients have the right to access medical aid in dying and to end their lives prematurely if they choose?
2. What are the unintended consequences of making medical aid in dying legal and widely available prior to ensuring that all persons have access to palliative care and pain relief?
3. When could medical aid in dying be made available? At any point in the cancer trajectory?
4. What does the research say about those who choose medical aid in dying and then actually carry it out?
5. What should oncology and palliative care professionals do when a patient requests medical aid in dying and is legally available but not considered part of their practice?
A poll was taken at the beginning and end of the debate with three options: 1) No it should not be available, 2) Yes, but it should only be available if full access to palliative care is available, and 3) Yes, it should be available in all settings. The results of the final poll were 14% for option one, 60% for option two, and 26% for option three, meaning that most attendees wanted MAID to only be legal if full access to palliative care was available.
UICC has made the seven most popular presentations from the Congress freely available on their YouTube channel, including this big debate. You can access all of them at: https://www.worldcancercongress.org/enjoy-best-congress or go directly to the Big Debate at: https://tinyurl.com/5n987fhv