Medical students attend Physicans for Life event in Toronto

Canadian Physicians for Life recently sponsored 56 medical students and interns to attend the organization’s fourth pro-life forum in five years. The students, representing 11 Canadian universities, came to Toronto for the three-day event, held in conjunction with the International Symposium on Euthanasia and Assisted Suicide that was hosted by the Euthanasia Prevention Coalition from Nov. 31 to Dec. 2.

On the first day of presentations, the students participated in the euthanasia symposium with what the EPC called “nearly every leader and significant speaker on the issues of euthanasia and assisted suicide.”

The med students’ forum continued throughout the weekend with talks by professionals in medicine, law and ethics. Speakers included lawyer Ruth Ross and doctors Stephen Genuis, Deborah Zeni, Larry Reynolds and Paul Ranalli. Together, they addressed the gathering of students on a range of life and conscience issues, including informed consent, women’s health after abortion, fetal pain and the right not to refer, in a series of talks and question periods.

There is a need for such discussion within the medical profession to help equip students and young doctors for the challenges they will face.

Dr. Will Johnston, president of Canadian Physicians for Life, noted that amid the “utilitarian ethic of mainstream bioethics,” Canadian medical schools “are not making an adequate effort to include alternate viewpoints to life ethics questions.”

Matt Tucker, a first-year medical student from Dalhousie University, attended the forum and agreed. He said med schools “give us an introduction to the idea that as physicians, we’re going to have to face a variety of ethical issues, but I don’t think they’ve done a great job of being specific about how we might handle such situations … So far, I’d have to say that these issues are just not discussed a great deal. It’s like they don’t want to deal with it.”

Another student, Thomas Bouchard, attended the conference with five others from the University of Calgary and returned “very moved,” he said. After returning from the Physicians for Life forum, they presented two debriefing sessions to “our fellow students on a variety of topics covered at the conference. Our presentation was well received and we are glad that our class now has a ‘standard’ for pro-life students at the school. Our fellow students now know that they can approach us if they want more evidence-based information about the pro-life side.”

Tucker went on to say he thought the forum was “fantastic.” Why? It not only informed the students, but prepared them to face opposition and apathy to pro-life ethics with confidence at their own campuses. “Before the conference … I didn’t know about the wealth of scientific medical evidence that supports this view. I feel I’ve been given a great deal of information that will enable me to speak confidently about the pro-life perspective … Even if I’m not able to convince others to become more pro-life, I certainly feel more prepared to stick to my beliefs throughout my own career.”

Such personal convictions speak for themselves, inspiring hope for the future of medicine and its ethical implementation for all individuals – especially those who are voiceless and most vulnerable.