Calgary

AHS offers to connect patients seeking right to die with willing doctors

Alberta Health Services says it has identified doctors in every area of the province who would be willing to perform doctor-assisted death, and that it will help connect eligible patients with those professionals.

AHS doctors will not be required to refer a patient who is seeking physician-assisted death

Alberta Health Services says patients seeking more information or related services can visit their website or call Health Link at 811 to be put in contact with a professional. (Getty Images/Cultura RF)

Alberta Health Services says there are doctors in every area of the province who would be willing to perform doctor-assisted death, and it is prepared to connect eligible patients with those professionals. 

The health authority said it is not taking a specific position on the controversial issue, but said it recognizes the Supreme Court of Canada's decision to make it an available option for adults under specific circumstances.

Earlier this week, a Calgary woman with late-stage ALS ended her life in Vancouver with the help of a doctor after being granted the right to die from an Alberta superior court justice. A close friend of the woman said they were unable to find a physician in Alberta who was willing to assist in the process.

AHS is identifying these willing doctors and other professionals through an ongoing survey, said Dr. Francois Belanger, acting chief medical officer.

The findings of the survey will also help shape guidelines in preparation for the legislative change coming in June, he said.

"We've actually taken a very step-wise approach to this and a very careful approach to this, because we do realize this is a very emotional issue for some folks," he said.

Belanger said AHS is committed to protecting the conscience rights of physicians and other staff, which is why no doctor who is uncomfortable with the process will be required to refer a patient who is seeking physician-assisted death. 

Instead, patients and families seeking related information or services can visit AHS's website or call Health Link at 811.


With files from CBC's The Homestretch.

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