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Original research
Canadian neurosurgeons’ views on medical assistance in dying (MAID): a cross-sectional survey of Canadian Neurosurgical Society (CNSS) members
  1. Alwalaa Althagafi1,
  2. Chris Ekong2,
  3. Brian W Wheelock3,
  4. Richard Moulton4,
  5. Peter Gorman5,
  6. Kesh Reddy6,
  7. Sean Christie1,
  8. Ian Fleetwood7,
  9. Sean Barry1
  1. 1 Division of Neurosurgery, Dalhousie University Faculty of Medicine, Halifax, Nova Scotia, Canada
  2. 2 Division of Neurosurgery, University of Saskatchewan College of Medicine, Saskatoon, Saskatchewan, Canada
  3. 3 Department of Neurosurgery, Saint John Regional Hospital, Saint John, New Brunswick, Canada
  4. 4 Division of Neurosurgery, University of Ottawa Faculty of Medicine, Ottawa, Ontario, Canada
  5. 5 Department of Neurosurgery, The Moncton Hospital, Moncton, New Brunswick, Canada
  6. 6 Department of Surgery, McMaster University Faculty of Health Sciences, Hamilton, Ontario, Canada
  7. 7 Department of Neurosurgery, University of British Columbia Faculty of Medicine - Vancouver Island Health, Victoria, B.C., Canada
  1. Correspondence to Dr Sean Barry, Division of Neurosurgery, Dalhousie University Faculty of Medicine, Halifax, B3H 3A7, Nova Scotia, Canada; spbarry{at}


Background The Supreme Court of Canada removed the prohibition on physicians assisting in patients dying on 6 February 2015. Bill C-14, legalising medical assistance in dying (MAID) in Canada, was subsequently passed by the House of Commons and the Senate on 17 June 2016. As this remains a divisive issue for physicians, the Canadian Neurosurgical Society (CNSS) has recently published a position statement on MAID.

Methods We conducted a cross-sectional survey to understand the views and perceptions among CNSS members regarding MAID to inform its position statement on the issue. Data was collected from May to June 2016.

Results Of the 300 active membes of the CNSS who recevied the survey, 89 respondents completed the survey, 71% of whom were attending neurosurgeons and 29% were neurosurgery residents. Most respondents,74.2%, supported the right of physicians to participate in MAID with 7.8% opposing. 37% had current patients in their practice fitting the criteria for MAID. 23.6% had been asked by patients to assist with MAID, but only 11% would consider personally providing it. 84% of neurosurgeons surveyed supported the physicians’ right to conscientious objection to MAID while 21% thought attending surgeons should be removed from the inquiry and decision-making process. 43.8% agreed that the requirment to refer a patient to a MAID service should be mandatory. Glioblastoma multiforme (65%), quadriplegia/quadriparesis secondary to spinal tumour/trauma (54%) and Parkinson’s disease (24%) were the most common suggested potential indications for MAID among the neurosurgical population.

Conclusions Our results demonstrate that most neurosurgeons in Canada are generally supportive of MAID in select patients. However, they also strongly support the physicians’ right to conscientious objection.

  • suicide/assisted suicide
  • neuroethics
  • conscientious objection
  • end-of-life
  • euthanasia

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  • Contributors AA: first author, data collection, analysis and manuscript writing. CE, BWW, RM, PG, KR, IF: contributed to survey design, question generation, survey validation and review of manuscript. SC: contributed to survey design, question generation, survey validation and provided major revisions to the manuscript. SB: senior author; contributed to survey design, question generation, survey validation and conduction; provided major revisions to the manuscript.

  • Funding The authors have not declared a specific grant for this research from any funding agency in the public, commercial or not-for-profit sectors.

  • Competing interests None declared.

  • Ethics approval Ethical approval was obtained from the provincial health authority of the senior author (SB).

  • Provenance and peer review Not commissioned; externally peer reviewed.

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