Participating in medically assisted death not mandatory for health-care workers

New provincial bill similar to federal law


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The provincial government introduced legislation Tuesday that would prevent sanctions against a health professional who refuses to participate in a medically assisted death.

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Hey there, time traveller!
This article was published 16/05/2017 (2209 days ago), so information in it may no longer be current.

The provincial government introduced legislation Tuesday that would prevent sanctions against a health professional who refuses to participate in a medically assisted death.

In introducing Bill 34, The Medical Assistance in Dying (Protection for Health Professionals and Others) Act, Health Minister Kelvin Goertzen said it would ensure medical professionals are not disciplined for their beliefs.

“The legislation will protect the rights of those who do not wish to participate in a medically assisted death for conscious, faith or other reasons,” he told the legislative assembly.

WAYNE GLOWACKI / WINNIPEG FREE PRESS Kelvin Goertzen, Minister of Health, Seniors and Active Living

In 2015, the Supreme Court of Canada ruled physicians can assist in the consensual death of a patient. The federal government subsequently brought in legislation setting out the parameters in which medically assisted death could legally occur.

The federal law already specifies no one is compelled to participate in a medically assisted death.

Under Bill 34, an individual can, without disciplinary or employment repercussions, refuse to participate in a medically assisted death because of their personal convictions.

The bill also prohibits a professional regulatory body from requiring its members to participate in a medically assisted death.

NDP Justice critic Andrew Swan said there are already protections in place for medical professionals who are opposed to medical assistance in dying (MAID).

Swan said he doesn’t why the government feels compelled to introduce legislation at this point.

“I don’t know if there is a specific concern that the minister will be able to tell us about as we move into discussing the bill,” he said.

Goertzen was unavailable for comment after introducing his measure.

Swan said terminally ill Manitobans who are suffering unbearable pain and a greatly diminished quality of life have a right to receive information about MAID and access to medical practitioners who will carry it out.

There is no mention of patient rights in Goertzen’s bill, he noted.

“There may be a specific concern that this bill addresses,” Swan said. “We’re prepared to listen to the minister on that, but I think that the minister also needs to make it clear that he supports people having reasonable access and reasonable information to something the Supreme Court has said is a right in Canada.

“If we’re not providing that information, if we’re not providing that access for assisted death, then we’re not really providing that right for Manitobans.”

Swan said the government should not be in a hurry to pass the bill.

“I think it is a good time to have a broader examination of how this is working in Manitoba and to work constructively as an Opposition to make sure the law… and the process is as good as it can be,” he said.

There are established protocols medical professionals must adhere to before assisting in ending someone’s life.

The College of Physicians and Surgeons of Manitoba has also established professional standards for doctors in MAID, including guidelines for conscientious objectors. The college, which licenses MDs, says physicians may refuse to provide medical assistance in dying or personally offer specific information about it to patients. They can even refuse to refer the patient to another physician who will provide the service.

However, physicians must promptly inform the patient of their conscience-based objection. And the college says they must “provide the patient with timely access to a resource that will provide accurate information about MAID.” They must also continue to provide unrelated care to the patient and turn over any medical records to physicians providing MAID to the patient.

Larry Kusch

Larry Kusch
Legislature reporter

Larry Kusch didn’t know what he wanted to do with his life until he attended a high school newspaper editor’s workshop in Regina in the summer of 1969 and listened to a university student speak glowingly about the journalism program at Carleton University in Ottawa.


Updated on Tuesday, May 16, 2017 2:52 PM CDT: Updates

Updated on Tuesday, May 16, 2017 5:59 PM CDT: FInal write through and full edit

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