Pubdate: Wed, 19 Oct 2005
Source: Globe and Mail (Canada)
Copyright: 2005, The Globe and Mail Company
Author: Andre Picard
Bookmark: (Cannabis - Medicinal - Canada)


Get Your Patients To Sign A Liability Waiver Or Face Lawsuits, Insurance 
Group Says

The organization that provides malpractice insurance to Canadian physicians 
is telling doctors they should not prescribe medical marijuana unless 
patients sign a release-of-liability waiver.

In a letter to its 60,000 members, the Canadian Medical Protective 
Association cautioned physicians that they could face lawsuits for 
prescribing marijuana because it is an unproven drug so they should be 
careful to protect themselves, according an article published on the web 
site of the Canadian Medical Association Journal.

Both the CMPA and the Canadian Medical Association have opposed the 
medical-marijuana program since its inception in 2001.

The physicians' group and its insurers have argued that marijuana has not 
been subject to the same testing as other prescription drugs and that 
doctors have been unduly burdened with the role of "gatekeepers" of a 
program that they do not support and that leaves them vulnerable to lawsuits.

In June, the federal government adopted new regulations that were designed 
to address the concerns of physicians, but the CMPA said in its letter to 
doctors that the amendments were insufficient.

"The revised regulations are certainly an improvement but underlying 
concerns remain," said Dr. John Gray, chief executive officer of the CMPA. 
"Prescribing medical marijuana cannot be compared to prescribing 
prescription drugs."

Canada's Marihuana Medical Access Regulations were amended so doctors no 
longer have to recommend the daily dosage of marijuana or the manner in 
which the patient intends to take the drug, nor do they have to attest to 
the benefits of marijuana use.

Many physicians found it absurd and unethical to give their patients a 
prescription to smoke, and many had concerns about the lack of research 
showing the benefits of pot for treatment of specific symptoms.

Under the new regulations, the onus shifted from the prescribing physician 
to the patient. People who apply for the right to use medical marijuana 
must now attest that they "discussed the risks of using medical marijuana 
with a medical practitioner . . . and consent to using it for the 
recommended medical purpose."

Currently, 1,042 people in Canada are legally authorized to possess 
marijuana for medical purposes, according to Health Canada. About 250 of 
the program participants buy dried marijuana from Health Canada while the 
balance are authorized to grow their own pot.

Most of them smoke pot to treat chronic pain or to alleviate symptoms of 
chronic illnesses such as HIV and AIDS and multiple sclerosis.

The CMPA recommends that physicians present their patients with a release 
form, but patients are not obliged to sign it. And even a patient who has 
signed the waiver is not prevented from suing.

In Quebec, physicians are specifically prohibited by law from requesting 
that a patient sign a release from professional liability.
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