Please visit the CRNBC medical assistance in dying (MAiD) page for the most current information on this topic
posted Feb. 9, 2016updated Feb. 12, 2016updated Mar. 7, 2016
This announcement has been updated in response to feedback from nurses and the public.
CRNBC recognizes the important role nurses play in providing palliative and end-of-life care. We are committed to supporting nurses as we work to clarify their role in physician-assisted dying.
The recent Supreme Court of Canada (SCC) decision in
Carter v. Canada did not address the role of nurses in physician-assisted death, leaving it unclear what involvement they can or should undertake.
We look forward to the anticipated legislation that will clarify the role nurses may have in PAD. Until this legislation is in place, or the courts in British Columbia rule on the matter, the legal position of nurses is regrettably uncertain.
It's important to note that the Carter decision
does not change nurses' accountabilities as they relate to their current roles with clients seeking information or requiring palliative or end of life care. Nurses continue to have an integral role in providing quality care for those clients. This includes:
As of February 6, 2016, following the Supreme Court of Canada (SCC)
Carter decision, some British Columbians can apply to courts in this province for approval to die by physician-assisted dying (PAD). The SCC decision in Carter provides an exemption for physicians from charges under the Criminal Code in cases of PAD, as long as certain requirements are met. It is important for registrants to be aware that the SCC did not say this exemption applies to nurses.
At this point, work is underway to clarify the role of the nurse in the PAD process. Given the current circumstances and the lack of clarity about whether there is a Criminal Code exemption for nurses under the Carter decision, participating in physician-assisted dying at this time could put nurses at risk, legally and professionally.
CRNBC advises nurses to avoid initiating a discussion about PAD with patients or their families. If approached for information about PAD by patients or families, nurses should recommend they discuss the matter with a physician.
If you are approached to participate in PAD, we recommend you seek an independent legal opinion regarding your specific situation. Nurses may also want to consider speaking with their supervisor, or workplace contacts in risk management or professional practice.
Contact a regulatory practice consultant