ARNNL Commentary on Physician-Assisted Death

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:

The Canadian Nurses Association and the Canadian Nurses Protective Society have also posted positions that are helpful to review:

ARNNL has included other commentary in both the January 2016 edition of ACCESS and the May 2016 Edition.

Get Involved

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   or 709-753-6193 if you have any questions related to physician-assisted death.

©2014 Association of Registered Nurses of Newfoundland and Labrador