Providing option for assisted death a personal choice

If patients request medically assisted death, it is imperative that physicians and nurse practitioners are aware of the legal requirements involved in that process, says Elyse Sunshine.

“If you’re going to implement assisted dying into your practice, it’s not simply a matter of getting the drugs and giving them to patients,” says Sunshine. “There are a number of important legal requirements and steps that have to be completed first.”

She tells AdvocateDaily that health professionals must first decide if they are comfortable with providing this type of care.

“Medically assisted death is an important thing to be able to offer patients, but it’s not something everyone wants to do,” Sunshine says. “Every health professional has to think about whether this is within their scope of practice, and if are they capable of providing this type of care.”

The Canadian Press reports that almost 7,000 Canadians have received medical help to end their lives since Canada legalized assisted dying three years ago.

Physicians administered the majority of medical assistance in dying (MAID), the story states, with less than 10 per cent provided by nurse practitioners.

“Health professionals who have a conscientious or religious objection do not have to provide this service,” says Sunshine.

“However, they have to make an effective referral, and direct the patient to another doctor or nurse practitioner who can carry out the service in a timely manner,” she says.

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