Bioethics News

Euthanasia in Albert seems to be accelerating

Expanding their skill set in Alberta   

Euthanasia in Canada is developing its own characteristics, some of which are even more progressive than in the Netherlands or Belgium. In the province of Alberta, the government now permits “nurse practitioners” to administer lethal injections, not just doctors. Everywhere else in the world where euthanasia is legal, a doctor’s involvement is required.

A nurse practitioner is qualified nurse who can process screening and diagnostic tests, perform procedures and prescribe medications and therapeutic interventions. They are needed in a vast country like Canada where remote towns are short on doctors.

“Having a regulatory framework for MAID (medical assistance in dying) is a good step towards ensuring access for those in need while maintaining public safety,” Eric Lavoie, president of the Nurse Practitioner Association of Alberta, told the Edmonton Journal. “Alberta’s under-served populations and rural areas, who desperately need access to essential healthcare services, like MAID, could receive comprehensive healthcare services from nurse practitioners.”

There are two reasons why the nurse practitioners are needed: demand for euthanasia is far greater than anticipated and fewer doctors than anticipated are willing to do it. So far this year, 60 Albertans have died, according to the latest figures. The government forecast a spike in demand after legalization, which would then taper off. Instead, it has continued to grow. A survey of doctors earlier this year found that about 150 would be willing to help out in MAID, but only a few of these have actually volunteered to give injections. 

This article is published by Michael Cook and BioEdge under a Creative Commons licence.

The views, opinions and positions expressed by these authors and blogs are theirs and do not necessarily represent that of the Bioethics Research Library and Kennedy Institute of Ethics or Georgetown University.