Health Minister Terry Lake and Attorney General Suzanne Anton released the following statement today on medical assistance in dying:
“As of June 6, 2016, assisted dying is no longer illegal in Canada and the requirement for court approval has been removed. As laid out in the Supreme Court of Canada’s February 2015 ruling, doctors will no longer be prohibited from providing medical assistance in dying to competent, consenting adults who have a grievous and irremediable medical condition that causes enduring, intolerable suffering.
“The federal government has introduced Bill C-14, which is before Parliament, to regulate the practice of medical assistance in dying across Canada. We are hopeful this legislation will be passed quickly so B.C. and other provinces and territories can move forward with a clear and consistent approach to delivering this new service for patients.
“In the meantime, we will be guided by the criteria in the Supreme Court’s ruling. Our ministries are working together, alongside the province’s professional regulatory colleges and other partners, to ensure safeguards are in place to protect vulnerable patients. This work aims to make medical assistance in dying in B.C. appropriate, available, and well-monitored even before federal legislation is in place.
“As always, doctors in B.C. must abide by the standards set out by the College of Physicians and Surgeons of BC. In an effort to ensure strong safeguards to protect vulnerable patients, the college has strengthened direction to doctors by elevating advice on how best to care for patients seeking medical assistance in dying from guidelines to standards. This provides clearer direction to doctors on determining eligibility and following the most appropriate and safe procedures.
“To further strengthen safeguards, using the tools available to government, we have amended the regulations under B.C.’s Health Professions Act to give the college’s recently released standards the weight of law as of June 6, 2016. We have also directed each health authority to appoint a co-ordinator for medical assistance in dying.
“The Supreme Court’s decision only clearly refers to the role of physicians in providing medical assistance in dying. The College of Registered Nurses and the College of Pharmacists are working to support registrants in getting legal clarity on medical assistance in dying to further support patient access.
“As this new service evolves, we will continue to strive towards providing those seeking medical assistance in dying with the same appropriate, accessible, patient-focused care British Columbians have come to expect from all health care services in this province.”