Nova Scotia

N.S. Catholic hospital will offer assisted dying after policy change

In a short email statement, the Nova Scotia Health Authority says the policy was changed last month in relation to St. Martha's Regional Hospital in Antigonish, N.S., which was formerly run by the Sisters of St. Martha.

The hospital was previously exempt under a 1996 agreement with the Catholic order

The Nova Scotia Health Authority said in a short emailed statement that the policy was changed last month in relation to St. Martha's Regional Hospital in Antigonish, N.S. (CBC)

The organization that administers hospitals in Nova Scotia has quietly changed its policy to allow patients to access medically assisted dying services at a Catholic hospital that was previously exempt.

In a short emailed statement, the Nova Scotia Health Authority says the policy was changed last month in relation to St. Martha's Regional Hospital in Antigonish, which was formerly run by the Sisters of St. Martha.

The hospital had been previously exempt under a 1996 agreement with the Catholic order that gave control of the facility to the province.

Tim Guest, the health authority's vice-president of health services, says assessments and the provision of assisted dying under the federal legislation will be available in a section of the hospital complex at the Antigonish Health and Wellness Centre.

Guest says the arrangement respects the 1996 agreement and the "philosophy, mission and values of St. Martha's," while also meeting the legislated obligation to ensure assisted dying services are available for patients who request them and meet the criteria for access to the service.

Jocelyn Downie, a professor who specializes in health law at Dalhousie University, says the move avoids what would have been a "certain" legal challenge over an exemption granted to a publicly-funded institution, and it will be noticed in some other provinces with faith-based hospitals.

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