Medical Assistance in Dying Framework Assures Access and Safeguards for Albertans

Medical Assistance in Dying Framework Assures Access and Safeguards for Albertans

The Government has approved a framework for medical assistance in dying that protects the vulnerable while supporting individuals who want to exercise their rights.

“Medical assistance in dying is now legal in Canada and we are prepared to support individuals considering what may be one of the most difficult decisions anyone can face. This framework reflects months of thoughtful, collaborative work with our partners, a consultation that saw more than 15,000 Albertans share their deeply held beliefs about the issue, and a debate with our colleagues in the house.”

Sarah Hoffman, Minister of Health

Dr. Mary Valentich, a close friend of an Albertan woman who was the first Canadian outside of Quebec to die with medical assistance, has expressed support for Alberta’s approach.

“The provincial government and AHS have shown both leadership and progress during the past several months to enable eligible Albertans to seek assisted death through accessing a central care coordinating service. Recognition that a range of allied health professionals may be involved in exploring end-of-life options is very important. We will learn much during this next year to even further ensure an individualized process for those who meet the criteria.”

Dr. Mary Valentich, Professor Emerita, Faculty of Social Work, University of Calgary

Medical assistance in dying became legal in Canada on June 6, 2016, for those who meet the criteria set by the Supreme Court of Canada. The federal government’s proposed legislation (Bill C-14), which would amend the Criminal Code, has not yet passed the Senate. Alberta’s regulatory framework enshrines the operational protocols Alberta Health Services (AHS) has created for patients, and the College of Physician and Surgeons of Alberta’s standards of practice. Alberta is the first province to put such a framework in place since the Supreme Court’s Carter Decision in February 2015.

“Alberta Health Services has worked for many months in collaboration with the Government of Alberta, staff, stakeholders and regulatory bodies to ensure we are prepared for all aspects of providing medical assistance in dying. This includes the setting of operational policies and guidelines, supports to help staff cope with the unique challenges of medical assistance in dying and the establishment of care co-ordination teams, which act as a single point of contact for patients, families and health-care providers to streamline the care process.”

Dr. Francois Belanger, Vice President, Quality and Chief Medical Officer (Acting), Alberta Health Services

The three main elements of the framework are:

  • Establishing a central-care co-ordinating service, operated by AHS, to provide information, resources and support to patients, families and providers on medical assistance in dying and end-of-life care options.
  • Amending the Standard of Practice governing physicians’ delivery of medical assistance in dying to add extra safeguards.
  • Establishing a Medical Assistance in Dying Regulatory Review Committee to review, within one year, the regulation and practice of medical assistance in dying in Alberta and make recommendations to the Minister.

“Working with Alberta Health and Alberta Health Services on such a challenging topic was a privilege. The inspired leadership, and determined focus on service to the patient, set a new bar to aspire to in the future.”

Dr. Trevor Theman, Registrar, College of Physicians and Surgeons of Alberta