Nurses call for a principled framework to guide implementation of the Supreme Court's decision on assisted suicide

TORONTO, Feb. 6, 2015 /CNW/ -The national conversation must turn to establishing a principled regulatory framework now that the Supreme Court has struck down the law against assisted suicide, says the Registered Nurses' Association of Ontario (RNAO).

"Nurses play a critical role in end-of-life care and have much to offer to the development of the new legal framework," says RNAO Chief Executive Officer Dr. Doris Grinspun, commenting on the court's decision. "End-of-life care is top-of-mind for nurses who work across the health system and in all sectors, from providing palliative care including appropriate pain management, to working with families on a do not resuscitate order, to helping patients with advanced-care planning to make sure loved ones are prepared. Nurses are heavily involved in helping to ensure Canadians die with peace and dignity."

RNAO's members passed a resolution in April 2014 approving a set of principles to be considered when discussing assisted suicide and/or euthanasia, some of which are already contained in the Supreme Court ruling (for a full list of RNAO's principles, see below).

"RNAO will continue to engage with members, the public and other health professionals in shaping new mechanisms and regulations that, above all else, protect the public and respect their wishes, as well as protect health providers," emphasizes Grinspun, adding that: "We all have a right to our own views, but it's dangerous to disregard those who don't share the same perspectives. We need to work together to ensure this process is respectful, and keeps the patient's best interest and wishes at the forefront."

Nurses also have a duty to help ensure the public better understands palliative care, and RNAO will step up its advocacy to make sure universal access for palliative care exists anywhere in Ontario and Canada. "Palliative care is not about going somewhere to die. It's about living, as fully as possible, and it's our duty to continue to spark this discussion," says RNAO's President Dr. Vanessa Burkoski.

RNAO, a provincial organization that represents the profession, has encouraged a public dialogue on this fundamental aspect of public policy. "The resolution was never about RNAO taking a position on this issue. It is about RNAO advancing a public conversation," says Burkoski, adding: "Nurses have a duty to uphold the public's trust by encouraging these open and transparent conversations, while honouring diverse values."

RNAO will continue to advance public dialogue. The association already held webinars with over 500 nurses. It is set to host additional webinars with nurses and with the public, as well as a panel discussion open to the public at RNAO's 90th annual general meeting on April 18.

  • RNAO's resolution principles on assisted suicide and/or euthanasia include:
  • Personal autonomy and justice are fundamental principles
  • Ensuring timely access to evidence-based palliative care must remain a top priority
  • The government must reject calls for involuntary euthanasia
  • Assisted suicide and/or euthanasia must never be considered within the context of cost- savings
  • Procedural safeguards must be enacted, including:
    • Restricting assisted suicide and/or euthanasia to competent adults with terminal illness;
    • Requiring that requests for assisted suicide and/or euthanasia be initiated by the person seeking the service and would subject to a thorough review process that includes: independent confirmation on terminal illness; determination of capacity by a mental health-care professional (with appeal to the Consent and Capacity Board); providing access to all reasonable alternatives and establishing a waiting period.
  • The practice of assisted suicide and/or voluntary active euthanasia must be restricted to professionals who have sought designated education and training.
  • No health professional or organization should be required to participate in assisted suicide and/or voluntary active euthanasia.
  • A provincial monitoring and reporting system must be developed, including a process for responding to complaints.

Read RNAO's resolution and backgrounder .

This year marks the Registered Nurses' Association of Ontario's (RNAO) 90th anniversary. RNAO is the professional association representing registered nurses, nurse practitioners, and nursing students in Ontario. Since 1925, RNAO has advocated for healthy public policy, promoted excellence in nursing practice, increased nurses' contribution to shaping the health-care system, and influenced decisions that affect nurses and the public they serve. For more information about RNAO, visit our website at or follow us on Facebook and Twitter.

SOURCE Registered Nurses' Association of Ontario

For further information: Melissa Di Costanzo, Communications Officer/Writer, Registered Nurses' Association of Ontario (RNAO), Phone: 416-408-5606 / 1-800-268-7199 ext. 250,


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