Alberta releases draft rules governing physician assisted death

Provincial legislation will be superseded when federal law comes into effect

EDMONTON – Alberta has made public its own draft regulations for physician-assisted death, but notes those rules will be superseded when the federal law is in place.

“The federal government has the primary responsibility for legislation in this area, and we intended for our regulations to fit within their legislative framework,” associate health minister Brandy Payne told reporters Tuesday.

“In the meantime, Alberta needs to be prepared.”

The issued is now being debated under a motion put forward in the legislature.

The Opposition Wildrose party said the government has not given enough time for debate.

“This shortened timeline imposed by the NDP government is simply unacceptable,” Drew Barnes, shadow health critic, said in a news release.

“Less than an hour is not nearly enough time for any Member to prepare for the constructive and helpful debate that we would like to see on this motion, and that Albertans expect from their representatives.”

In the coming days, the regulations will go to Premier Rachel Notley’s cabinet for approval.

The federal legislation, Bill C-14, passed third reading in the House of Commons Tuesday and is now headed to the Senate.

All governments are now scrambling to meet the June 6 deadline set by the Supreme Court to have rules in place for those who wish to take their own lives.

The Alberta rules mandate that anyone who wants medical assistance to do so must be at least 18 years old and have a “grievous and irremediable medical condition.”

They must be mentally capable of making a decision on their own health, makes a voluntary request for the assistance, and give informed consent to have it carried out.

There is no mandated period of reflection between when a patient makes the request for assisted death and the procedure is carried out.

Any doctor who is asked by a patient to assist in the death may decline on reasons of religion or conscience but must ensure that the patient has access to those at Alberta Health Services who can carry out the request.

The drug used to end a patient’s life must be approved by Alberta Health Services.

Physician-assisted death became a controversial issue after February 2015, when the Supreme Court recognized the right of consenting adults enduring intolerable physical or mental suffering to end their lives with a doctor’s help.

The federal government has already said it may not meet the deadline.

Bill C-14 has met with controversy, with concerns raised by constitutional experts, medical professionals and human rights advocates.

Under the bill, in order for someone to be eligible for a medically assisted death, a person must be someone who is “suffering intolerably” and for whom a natural death is “reasonably foreseeable.”

The person must be a consenting adult, at least 18 years old, with a serious and incurable disease, illness or disability, and be in “an advanced state of irreversible decline.”

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