Medical Assistance in Dying

Health News

The 2015 Supreme Court Carter v. Canada decision passed a landmark ruling outlining laws that prohibit physician assistance in terminating life infringes on right to life, liberty and security of the person.   Since this decision, the media has extensively covered the issue and speculated on the direction this will take in Canada. On June 16, the bill that was passed by Senate to legalize Physician Assisted Death received Royal Assent. This is now known as Medical Assistance in Dying.

A recent statement by the Canadian Nurses Protective Society (CNPS) stresses that nurses must practice with caution in their practice area and can not guarantee that participation in Medical Assisted Dying may not attract legal attention. Individuals are encouraged to clearly understand their scope within the legislation and familiarize themselves with guidelines in 241.2 of Bill C-14.

To assist nurses in Alberta, several resources have since become available. Alberta Health Services (AHS) has updated Insite to provide education on June 22, 2016 to help employees grasp the impact of this change in law. AHS has committed to working closely with key partners to develop information that supports staff. To review criteria for the eligibility with Medical Assistance in Dying, UNA encourages its members to review any AHS Medical Assistance in Dying policies. If you require further support, Medical Assistance in Dying Care Coordination teams have been established by AHS in an effort to ensure that staff are practicing safely and legally. Additionally, the College and Association of Registered Nurses of Alberta (CARNA) is working on guidelines for nurses that align with the Medical Assistance in Dying legislation. CARNA encourages any nurse that is asked to participate contact them for more support. A clear message from AHS and CARNA is that individuals are not required to participate if this practice is against an individual’s moral belief. The Canadian Nurses Association (CNA) document highlights other risks which can impact an RN with their practice, ranging from burnout to moral distress.

As this is a difficult topic and can elicit many different emotions within each of us, it is important we have safe places to discuss our individual views. If you require support during this process, the union is here to guide you through this process as information is continuously changing and being updated. Your union, at your side, on your side, can be reached at 403 670 9960 (Local office) or by email

Kevin Champagne