Lack of clarity in assisted-dying regulations among Maritime provinces
Three days into legalized assisted-death in Canada and the gaps in regulations among the provinces are becoming clearer and wider.
New Brunswick is now saying regional health authorities won’t provide it all – until there’s a new federal law.
In Nova Scotia and Prince Edward Island, the lack of clarity seems to be having a chilling effect on nurses and pharmacists.
Although it’s now legal to seek medical assistance in dying, patients trying to access the service may still encounter hurdles.
Across the Maritimes, nurses and nurse practitioners are being advised not to get involved.
“Should patients come to them and want to talk about medical assistance in dying, the nurse refers that patient to their physician and also note it in the chart,” says Sue Smith of the Nova Scotia College of Registered Nurses.
Nova Scotia pharmacists are told to be extremely cautious and that message is being echoed across the Maritimes.
The New Brunswick Association of Nurses warns members not to start an IV or prepare or administer medications used in assisted dying.
“There’s actually a really straightforward solution that’s available to counter the chill,” says law professor Jocelyn Downie.
Downie says the Public Prosecution and chiefs of police could choose to provide clarity for nurses and pharmacists.
“You will not be charged or prosecuted under the criminal code for the provision or participation in medical assistance in dying,” says Downie.
Justice departments in P.E.I. and Nova Scotia say a directive is coming soon.
“What we’re looking at is what other provinces have done,” says Nova Scotia Justice Minister Diana Whalen. “They’ve taken the step to do some directives from either the prosecution services or the minister.”
However, the New Brunswick Department of Health says the lack of a federal bill is leading to some discomfort among doctors.
The province has not issued a directive for other health-care providers, saying:
“Only when the final form of the federal legislation Bill C-14 has been passed, will the regional health authorities be able to finalize their processes and be in a position to offer this procedure.”
“There are no people on the list right now, nobody has applied,” says Whalen. “Some other provinces have people that are waiting, we don’t have anybody waiting.”
Government officials in all three Maritime provinces say they have not heard of any cases of medically-assisted death this week.
With files from CTV Atlantic’s Sarah Ritchie