As of Monday, assisted dying is not a crime in Canada, but the Federal Government has yet to pass legislation.
That means a patient no longer needs court approval, but it’s up to provincial regulators to set guidelines – for now.
B.C. to follow Supreme Court of Canada’s lead
B.C. Health Minister Terry Lake says the province will abide by the criteria set by the Supreme Court of Canada.
It says those eligible must have a “grievous and irremediable medical condition that causes enduring, intolerable suffering.”
“We’ve worked very closely with the College of Physicians and Surgeons. They have upgraded their guidelines to standards and we have gone one step further and enshrined those standards in a new regulation that is effective today saying physicians must in fact follow those standards.”
He says if a patient only suffers from a psychiatric condition, they will also be eligible for assisted dying.
Lake says the drugs are covered so there is no additional cost to the patient.
Doctors of B.C.’s wants bill passed as soon as possible
Meanwhile, the medical association representing doctors in B.C. wants federal government to pass assisted-dying legislation quickly.
Doctors of B.C. President Dr. Alan Ruddiman says he supports the federal bill’s preamble, which includes a commitment to respect the personal convictions of health care providers.
“Not all physicians, just like all members of society or even the federal government are not clearly on one side of this debate. It is a very divisive issue, it’s very polarizing, and clearly it’s a new issue in the context of how we deliver care in Canada.”
Ruddiman says he supports the significant restrictions included in Bill C-14.
Right now the bill focuses solely on mentally competent adults.
It doesn’t address the issues of mature minors and there is no accommodation for advanced directives.
B.C.’s nurses in a grey area without federal legislation
The regulatory body for nurses in B.C. is urging nurses not to initiate a discussion with patients about assisted-dying, despite it now being legal in Canada.
There is no federal legislation or a court order that currently exempts registered nurses and nurse practitioners from potential criminal liability for aiding or providing doctor-assisted death.
In a memo to members, the College of Registered Nurses says nurses should seek an independent legal opinion, and contact the Canadian Nurse Protective Society before getting involved in an assisted-death.
Pharmacists not exempt from criminal liability
The College of Physicians and Surgeons of BC says access to the drug is one of the barriers to assisted death.
Registrar and CEO Dr. Heidi Oetter says in the absence of federal legislation, pharmacists are not exempt from possible criminal liability.
“In our standards the pharmacist actually dispenses to the physician rather than the patient and we put that in specifically as a potential work around to perhaps give pharmacists more comfort that they are assisting a physician who is clearly exempted from the criminal code provisions as opposed to themselves.”
Oetter says assisted guidelines have been upgraded to professional standards.
That means doctors could be disciplined if a complaint is filed and an investigation determines rules were broken.
B.C. Supreme Court grants man with ALS right to die
The B.C. Supreme Court has granted a man suffering from Lou Gehrig’s disease – or ALS – the right to die with the help of a doctor.
This is the second petition of its kind to be heard by the BC Supreme Court.
Chief Justice Christopher Hinkson has ruled the man is going through enduring and intolerable pain and distress, and his quality of life has deteriorated over the last three years to the point his suffering is now unbearable.
In his decision, Hinkson says he’s satisfied, the man has carefully and thoughtfully come to his decision and he freely consents to the termination of his life.
Hinkson says the man’s mental capacity has been confirmed by two doctors and his siblings.