Doctor Assisted Dying – What Next?
Prince George, B.C. – The federal government’s failure to pass doctor assisted dying legislation prior to a Supreme Court of Canada imposed deadline Monday will have implications for rural and remote Canadian communities.
That from Catharine Schiller, an assistant professor at the University of Northern British Columbia’s School of Nursing.
“One of the biggest areas of concern that was not addressed in the Carter decision (the February 2015 landmark S.C.O.C. case that struck down the provision in the Criminal Code, giving mentally competent adults suffering intolerably the right to a doctor’s help in dying) was who exactly can provide medical assistance in dying,” she says.
“The Carter decision used the term physician assisted dying – it was very specific to physicians. It did not address what Bill C-14 now contemplates which is nurse practitioners being allowed to participate and to administer medical assistance in dying.
“And that was something that was very important from a rural and remote perspective with gaining clarity on the nursing role and nurse practitioners in particular, who lead a lot of the health care frameworks in rural and remote communities.”
So what next?
“Now that we have realized it (Bill C-14) is not passing, the College of Registered Nurses of British Columbia (CRNBC) has issued probably what we expected in their guidelines which was to remind us that the Carter decision did not address the role of nurse practitioners.”
As a result, Schilling says the CRNBC is telling nurses to avoid initiating a discussion about physician assisted dying with their patients.
And in cases where a patient asks, they have been asked to refer them to a physician.
“So they’re really saying without that legislation in place, we don’t have a role for nurse practitioners at the moment in terms of administering physician assisted dying and we don’t have clarity on what the registered nursing role can be either.”
And with summer about to start, she’s doubtful much work will be done to address the issue this summer.
“I don’t think it’s going to be done before the fall and that absolutely does concern me because I think we’ve got a lot of people who are in limbo at the moment who really don’t know whether they’re eligible or not for assisted dying and we’ve got a lot of healthcare practitioners who aren’t entirely clear on their permitted role.”