Alberta Introduces Motion on Medical Assistance in Dying

The Government of Alberta has introduced a motion on medical assistance in dying to begin debate on this important topic, in particular the checks and balances needed to ensure access while protecting vulnerable Albertans.

The Supreme Court of Canada has ruled that medical assistance in dying will become legal in Canada on June 6, 2016. The federal government has introduced Bill C-14, which is before Parliament, to regulate its practice across Canada.

Today’s motion reflects what was heard after months of consultations with Albertans. The government will hear from opposition members before moving forward with a regulatory framework based on the Supreme Court of Canada decision and guided by the proposed federal legislation.

The motion calls on the Legislature to debate the implementation of measures to ensure that:

  • Albertans may exercise their rights to get medical assistance in dying;
  • appropriate safeguards will be in place to protect vulnerable Albertans;
  • conscience rights are respected, while the right of patients to access this service is ensured; and,
  • the practice of medical assistance in dying will be closely monitored and measures regulating medical assistance in dying will be reviewed within one year.

“We’ve consulted extensively with the medical community, many stakeholders and the public regarding medical assistance in dying. We have heard them, and our next step is an open and public debate in our Legislature on this deeply personal issue. We will then move forward with a regulatory framework that strikes an appropriate balance between individuals’ right to access, conscience rights, the need to protect vulnerable individuals and the safety of patients.”

Sarah Hoffman, Minister of Health

To assist in determining the best way to protect patients, families, health-care providers and the vulnerable, an MLA committee comprised of Associate Minister of Health Brandy Payne (chair), Dr. Bob Turner and Dr. David Swann, was set up to gather input from Albertans. The consultation included an on-line survey, with 15,000 responses, and a request for submissions from stakeholder groups and community advocates, some of whom also met with the committee. The results of the consultation are available online in a What We Heardsummary.

“While the availability of medically assisted dying will provide relief from pain and suffering for many Albertans, it is a brand new area of practice and it is important that we ensure it is being practised safely. The government can step in with further regulations or legislation if there are safety or access concerns, or vulnerable people are not being adequately safeguarded.”

Brandy Payne, Associate Minister of Health