The Amendments to Legislation that Allow Healthcare Professionals to opt in or out with MAID
Traditionally hearing the words “doctor’s orders” meant exactly how it sounded, an authoritative command with no option but to follow it. So what has changed? We are now more informed, access to information is more available to us, and other healthcare professionals are equally educated as the doctors. This diversity has caused a shift from the singular paradigm of the science of medicine and developed what we know as healthcare today. It gives the end-user of healthcare more informed choices of lifestyle, treatments in sickness, and now treatment in death.
Last year medical assistance in dying (MAID), was made legal in Canada. In Ontario, it is believed on average 13 people per week are opting for this treatment. In order to prevent conflicts that affect other legislation, such as the Corners Act, Excellent Care for All Act, and Vital Statistics Act, Bill 84, also known as Chapter 7 of the Statutes of Ontario, 2017 was passed. Why was this necessary, I hear you wonder? Well MAID was developed to allow the rights of the patient, where Bill 84 was developed to protect the rights of the people immediately involved with MAID. Family members with patients requesting MAID are now protected against any wrong doing and are eligible for any insurance benefits after the patient's death. Bill 84, as well as, amendments to the Criminal Code was made to protect the rights of the healthcare professional assisting with MAID.
Not all healthcare professionals are comfortable with MAID. Assisting in a patient’s death, to some, is considered against the reason they entered the profession and contradictory to their training. Doctors are taught to treat and cure, and Nurses are taught to care and heal. So to address this conflict, the government have developed Bill 129. This Bill has amended the Regulated Health Professions Act, allowing healthcare professions, who are uncomfortable with MAID, to be considered exempt from MAID care interventions and treatment, this is known as conscientious objection. It does not, however, allow them to ignore a request by a patient seeking MAID.
Is this a good thing though, should healthcare professionals be able to choose who they care for? They are governed by professional practice and standards that do not permit them to act on their personal beliefs. Although some may argue this is special circumstances, others may argue this could be opening Pandora’s box.