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College Statement Regarding Supreme Court Ruling on Physician-assisted Death

The unanimous decision of the Supreme Court of Canada striking down the ban on providing a physician-assisted deathwill be carefully reviewed by the College. The court suspended its declaration for a year in order to allow federal and provincial governments time to draft any new legislative provisions. During these next 12 months the provisions of the Criminal Code remain unchanged.

The College of Physicians and Surgeons of Nova Scotia recognizes the magnitude and complexity of drafting new legislation and professional policies to balance a patient’s right to legally request and access physician-assisted death, and a physician’s right to hold values and beliefs which may require him/her to abstain from performing this treatment.

The Supreme Court has set out some criteria that would define individuals who would be eligible for physician-assisted dying, noting that they must be competent adults who clearly consent and are suffering with a “grievous, irremediable medical condition” that is intolerable to the individual. The Court’s decision also clearly spoke to the rights of physicians. “Nothing in this declaration would compel physicians to provide assistance in dying. The Charter rights of patients and physicians will need to be reconciled in any legislative and regulatory response to this judgment.”

The College welcomes the opportunity to collaborate with the provincial government and other stakeholders to align regulatory and legislative frameworks in response to the Supreme Court’s decision.