Medically Assisted Death: Ontario Nurses' Voices Must be Equal in the Debate

TORONTO, April 14, 2016 /CNW/ - Recognizing that Registered Nurses (RNs) will play a central role in medically assisted death under new legislation introduced today, the Ontario Nurses' Association (ONA) is calling for an equal voice for the nursing profession in the legislative debate.

"As front-line nurses working in hospitals, long-term care facilities and palliative care, the new legislation makes it very clear that nurses will be affected by this law," said ONA First Vice-President Vicki McKenna, RN. "We know that RNs and Nurse Practitioners will be directly involved when a patient chooses medically assisted death, and it is imperative that those debating this legislation recognize the vital role of nurses and consider our views to reflect the reality."

ONA believes that the legislation should balance the patient's right to access medically assisted death while also protecting vulnerable patient populations. ONA is also calling for the right of nurses to choose not to participate should they be conscientious objectors.

"It's one thing for legislators to pass the law around medically assisted death," said McKenna. "However, the practical reality for those of us on the front lines must also be considered. Furthermore, for those RNs and NPs who choose to follow the wishes of their patients, there must not be any penalty or criminal liability."

ONA is calling on the provincial government to develop clear guidelines and standards for RNs and NPs. Employers must also develop policies and processes so that all stakeholders – including front-line RNs – have an equal voice in the development of these policies.

"We're on the front lines, at the bedside of patients and will be the professionals who will be asked to provide information and support to our patients and families," notes McKenna. "We expect that in some cases, we will be asked to assist. We need the government – and the regulator, the College of Nurses of Ontario – to issue clear policies and/or nursing standards regarding the scope of a nurse's role."

ONA will continue to advocate for these concerns to be heard and addressed.

ONA is the union representing 60,000 registered nurses and allied health professionals, as well as more than 14,000 nursing student affiliates, providing care in hospitals, long-term care facilities, public health, the community, clinics and industry.    

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SOURCE Ontario Nurses' Association

For further information: Ontario Nurses' Association: Melanie Levenson, (416) 964-8833, ext. 2369,; Sheree Bond, (416) 964-8833, ext. 2430, cell: (416) 986-8240;


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