Medical assistance in dying – Public consultation

Following a Supreme Court of Canada ruling, medical assistance in dying became legal in Canada on June 6, 2016.

We know that end-of-life care and medical assistance in dying are important, sensitive, and emotional issues for Albertans. We recognize that patients have many decisions to make when faced with end-of-life care or intolerable suffering. The Government of Alberta wants to encourage Albertans to know and understand all the health care options available to them.

As we develop policies and practices around the delivery of medical assistance in dying, Alberta Health’s goal is to serve and protect patients, health care providers and our most vulnerable.

Public consultation

In 2015, 11 provinces and territories convened a Provincial-Territorial Expert Advisory Group to ensure that we would all have the best advice available regarding the implementation of medical assistance in dying in preparation for when the Supreme Court decision comes into effect.

The Expert Advisory Group invited over 250 stakeholder groups to complete written submissions on a wide range of issues related to the implementation of medical assistance in dying in Canada. This included submissions from Alberta stakeholders such as Covenant Health and the Health Quality Council of Alberta.

The Expert Advisory Group also held consultations (in-person or by phone) with experts and national stakeholders to clarify specific implementation issues. The group publicly released its report in December 2015.

Provincial/territorial governments continue to communicate regularly with the federal government on this issue and will continue to work together to share information as we move forward.

The College of Physicians and Surgeons of Alberta (CPSA) solicited public input on its document, Advice to the Profession: physician-assisted death, which sets out processes and requirements for determining eligibility, and for administering and reporting medical assistance in dying. It also provides guidance for those physicians who do not wish to participate on moral or religious grounds. The document was updated and released to the public in December 2015.

Alberta Health Services engaged with multiple stakeholders, including regulatory colleges, as it prepared for the safe delivery of medical assistance in dying for June 6, 2016.

Through a medical assistance in dying steering committee, Alberta Health Services received information from 6 sector-specific expert panels: Primary Health Care; Hospital/Acute Ambulatory Care; Continuing Care; Cancer Control/Care; Palliative and End of Life Care; and Addictions & Mental Health.

What Alberta did to prepare for medical assistance in dying

Alberta Health, Alberta Health Services, the College of Physicians and Surgeons of Alberta, and other health professional colleges have worked together to develop a regulatory framework that is aligned, legally sound, safe and consistent with the Supreme Court ruling. The framework will be respectful, ethical and compassionate to those requesting medical assistance in dying and those providing the service.

Public consultations in Alberta

The Supreme Court’s ruling created broad and sensitive questions that Alberta needed to consider in how we deliver and regulate medical assistance in dying. In order to ensure patients, families, healthcare providers and our most vulnerable are sufficiently protected, input from Albertans was required on several key areas.

Public survey and report

From February 29 to March 31, 2016, Albertans were encouraged to take part in an on-line survey. The Alberta government used the information gathered to inform many of the decisions that needed to be made prior to June 6, 2016.