Vancouver health authority changes assisted-dying guidelines for staff

Winnipeg Free Press

Laura Kane, Canadian Press

VANCOUVER – A major British Columbia health authority has updated its guidelines for medical staff on how to respond to requests for assisted death, allowing doctors and nurses to refer patients to a colleague.

Vancouver Coastal Health first distributed a bulletin on Feb. 5 that advised staff not to provide advice on assistance in dying, but to inform patients that they may wish to speak with legal counsel as a court-ordered exemption may be granted.

Dr. Ellen Wiebe, the Vancouver doctor who recently helped a Calgary woman with ALS die, said the original notice was unacceptable as it appeared to warn staff not to engage in conversations about assisted death.

“The recommendations that went out to clinical units were outrageous,” she said. “It was basically, ‘Don’t talk.’ That’s completely unacceptable. That hurts patients.”

After the health authority issued an updated bulletin on Thursday that advised staff to offer to connect patients with a colleague for more information, Wiebe said she was satisfied. . . [Full text]