We know that end-of-life care and medical assistance in dying (formerly known as physician-assisted death) are important, sensitive, and emotional issues for Albertans and Canada.
AHS wants to ensure patients can access compassionate high quality care, while ensuring staff and physicians can provide services within the law.
June 22, 2016
Effective June 6, 2016, based on the Supreme Court of Canada’s decision in Carter v. Canada 2015 SCC 5 (“Carter”) February 2015 and the Act to amend the Criminal Code and to make related amendments to other Acts (medical assistance in dying) (the “Act”), physician-assisted death, now known as medical assistance in dying ceased to be illegal in Canada in certain circumstances.
Alberta Health Services (AHS) is well prepared and has worked in close partnership with the Government of Alberta, the College of Physicians and Surgeons of Alberta, other health professional regulators and other stakeholders. Processes have been developed and information is available to support patients, physicians and staff when a request is received for medical assistance in dying.
On June 17, 2016 the Act became law. The Act addresses a number of concerns raised by the Carter decision, including extending the criminal law protection to both physician and non-physician health care providers involved in the lawful provision of medical assistance in dying.
The Act also changes the criteria for eligibility for medical assistance in dying compared to the Carter decision. The criteria are outlined in a number of documents including the AHS Medical Assistance in Dying Policy. The Act also introduces important safeguards for those patients who may be vulnerable; again, these are reflected in the AHS policy. It is recommended that health care providers review the AHS Medical Assistance in Dying Policy which reflects the new shifts in law and policy in order to better discuss available options with patients requesting this service.
Patients or family members wanting additional information on medical assistance in dying may be referred to their physician, Nurse Practitioner, or to Health Link (811) to receive information and links to the care they need. AHS has also developed Medical Assistance in Dying Care Coordination Teams to act as a single point of contact for patients, families and health care providers. They can be reached via email at firstname.lastname@example.org.
It is important to acknowledge that the rights of patients, AHS staff and physicians need to be respected during this significant shift in the law and clinical practice. AHS is clear that AHS staff and physicians are not required to provide medical assistance in dying; participation in the provision of this service is a personal decision for each health care provider to make.