Canadian Nurses Association Statement to Nurses on June 6, 2016, regarding Medical Assistance in Dying
The Supreme Court of Canada (SCC) ruled in February 2015 in Carter v. Canada that doctors will no longer be prohibited from providing assistance in dying to competent, consenting adults who have a grievous and irremediable medical condition that causes enduring, intolerable suffering.
As of June 6, 2016, medical assistance in dying is no longer illegal in Canada, and the requirement for court approval has been removed.
The SCC decision did not address the role of nurses in medical assistance in dying, leaving it unclear what involvement they can or should undertake.
The federal government and the Senate are working toward having Bill C-14, federal legislation on medical assistance in dying, in place in the coming weeks to regulate the practice of medical assistance in dying across Canada. Federal legislation will give all health-care providers a clear and consistent approach to delivering this new service.
While federal legislation is being finalized, provincial nursing regulatory bodies are supporting registrants in getting legal clarity on medical assistance in dying, and CNA is working with key nursing stakeholders to develop a national nursing framework to support consistent principles across jurisdictions on the ethical and practice issues for assistance in dying.
Until further notice, nurses are advised to consult their regulatory colleges about current rules, guidelines or practices regarding medical assistance in dying.
Importantly, the Carter decision does not change nurses’ accountabilities as they relate to their current roles in providing care, and nurses should continue to practise according to their provincial nursing scope of practice. Clients who ask about or request medical assistance in dying should be referred to a physician for further consultation and followup.
Continue to watch for legal changes that will impact nursing practice. CNA and the provincial regulatory colleges are monitoring changes and will update our resources as required.
CNA ethics in practice paper: Respecting Choices in End-of-Life Care: Challenges and Opportunities for RNs
List of provincial and territorial nursing regulatory bodies
Link to the Canadian Nurses Protective Society