Manitoba

Manitoba bill aims to protect staff unwilling to offer assisted death

Medical professionals in Manitoba who refuse to help terminally ill patients die will be protected from reprisals under new legislation introduced Tuesday.

Doctors or nurses who refuse to help patient die protected from repercussions under new legislation

A new bill introduced in the Manitoba legislature Tuesday protects health-care workers whose personal beliefs prevent them from offering medical assisted deaths to patients. (Getty Images/Blend Images)

Medical professionals in Manitoba who refuse to help terminally ill patients die will be protected from reprisals under new legislation introduced Tuesday.

Manitoba's Progressive Conservatives said Bill 34, the The Medical Assistance in Dying (Protection for Health Professionals and Others) Act, will ensure staff cannot be compelled to go against their own religious or ethical beliefs.

"The legislation will protect the rights of those who do not wish to participate in medically assisted death for conscience, faith or other reasons," Health Minister Kelvin Goertzen said.

The move follows announcements last year from two Winnipeg faith-based hospitals, Concordia Hospital (Anabaptist-Mennonite) and St. Boniface Hospital (Catholic), which said they will not provide the service to patients.

Manitoba's Bill 34 would also ban any professional regulatory body from requiring members to participate in medically assisted deaths.

The Manitoba bill acknowledges existing federal legislation already ensures no one can be compelled to offer a medically assisted death if they object.

That stipulation is enough for NDP Justice Critic Andrew Swan.

"My understanding is there already is protection in place," he said Tuesday.

While Swan agreed professionals who object to assisted death should have the right to decline to offer the service, there should be a procedure for referring patients to other practitioners who do offer it.

"There's also the broader right of patients in Manitoba to have information about the availability of assisted death," Swan said. 

The new legislation introduced by the PCs is a missed opportunity, he said, to put into law the requirement to refer patients when possible.

"I think the minister also needs to make it clear that he supports people having reasonable access and reasonable information," Swan said.

Medically assisted death was made legal by the Supreme Court in 2015.

The following year, federal Liberals gave adults "suffering intolerably" and whose death is "reasonably foreseeable" the right to die with help from medical professionals.

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