60 medically assisted deaths granted in Alberta since February, AHS says
People from across province have sought help to end their lives since option became available
A total of 60 Albertans have been granted medically assisted deaths since the beginning February, when court orders made the option available, Alberta Health Services says.
The AHS numbers show patients who chose medically assisted deaths came from across the province and included people who suffer from a range of conditions, such as cancer, multiple sclerosis or amyotrophic lateral sclerosis (ALS).
Last week, through an order in council, the Alberta government expanded the list of medical professionals authorized to assist patients with their deaths, by including nurse practitioners.
Associate health minister Brandy Payne said the inclusion of nurse practitioners will be especially helpful to patients outside major centres.
"This is a good thing, because it means people who are in rural or remote communities — maybe where they have less access to a physician — will be able to access medical assistance in dying," said Payne.
Payne said about two-thirds of the 60 Alberta patients chose to end their lives in a hospital, while one-third died in long-term care facilities or in their own homes.
Not all patients who wanted assisted deaths were granted their requests. Twenty-eight people who did not meet federal criteria were denied permission to receive medical assistance in dying, AHS spokesman Kerry Williamson said in an email.
Williamson said patients were deemed ineligible for a variety of reasons that included loss of capacity or competency, a mental health diagnosis, or a medical determination that death was "not reasonably foreseeable."
AHS said requests for the procedure have come from across Alberta, with most from the Edmonton region, where 28 assisted deaths have been carried out.
Catholic health-care provider Covenant Health has transferred six patients to AHS facilities for assisted deaths, Williamson said.
Covenant Health runs publicly funded hospitals in Edmonton and continuing-care facilities across the province. In February, Edmonton Archbishop Richard Smith said Covenant Health would not allow patients to end their lives with the help of physicians in its facilities.