On February 6, 2015, the Supreme Court of Canada in the Carter decision struck down the law prohibiting physician-assisted death for Canadians who have a grievous and irremediable medical condition causing intolerable suffering. This decision was to be effective as of February 6th, 2016 but was given a 4 month extension in January 2016 by the Supreme Court of Canada. It is important to note that the Carter decision was silent on the role of nurses in physician- assisted death; therefore at this time it is unclear what involvement nurses can or should undertake. ARNNL is committed to understanding the impact of this ruling on nursing practice and has been pursuing a number of activities to this effect. ARNNL will continue to monitor the situation for further developments that may provide additional clarity about the role of nurses in physician-assisted death. As there have been no federal or provincial legislation publically proposed to date it is too soon to know what the implications for RNs and NPs are at this point.
Below is a list of reports and submissions that reflect some of the questions and commentary that are relevant to future directions that ARNNL will need to pursue once legislative decisions are made:
- Provincial-Territorial Expert Advisory Group on Physician- Assisted Dying- Final Report (November 30, 2015)
- Medical Assistance in Dying: A Patient-Centered Approach. Report of the Special Joint Committee on Physician- Assisted Dying (February 2016)
The Canadian Nurses Association and the Canadian Nurses Protective Society have also posted positions that are helpful to review:
- The Canadian Nurses Association (CNA) Physician-Assisted Death- Brief for the Government of Canada’s External Panel on Options for a Legislative response to carter v. Canada (2015)
- The Canadian Nurses Protective Society (CNPS) - Physician-Assisted Death: What Does this Mean for Nurses?
- The Canadian Nurses Protective Society (CNPS) – The Special Joint Committee’s Report to the House of Commons and the Senate on Medical Assistance in Death Includes Recommendations That Will Protect Nurses
ARNNL has included other commentary in both the January 2016 edition of ACCESS and the May 2016 Edition.
- January 2016 ACCESS (1) Physician-Assisted Dying Carter v. Canada (Attorney General (p.20)
- January 2016 ACCESS (2)Physician-Assisted Death and the Nursing Profession (p.21)
ARNNL will keep members apprised of any amendments to the law and the Standards of Practice for Registered Nurses (2013) regarding the role of registered nurses in physician- assisted death. RNs and NPs should continue to check ARNNL’s website for any updates related to physician-assisted death, any educational opportunities, and any opportunity to become involved in discussions/document development related to physician assisted death and nursing practice.
Please connect with Policy and Practice Consultant, Pam King-Jesso at firstname.lastname@example.org or 709-753-6193 if you have any questions related to physician-assisted death.