Friends of Medicare Calls for Provincial MAID Legislation
Recent CBC reports have shown that Covenant Health is not fulfilling its responsibility to ensure patient access to a legal medical service, specifically the right to Medical Assistance in Dying (MAID). Friends of Medicare is calling on the provincial government and Alberta Health Services to take a clear position and enact provincial legislation that will address the inequality of access resulting from a varying interpretation of the MAID law. "Albertans need a position and Legislation that is humane and follows the intent of the federal legislation" says Sandra Azocar, Executive Director of Friends of Medicare.
It has become obvious that Mrs. Doreen Nowicki's story is not an isolated incident and that Covenant Health is preventing the provision of MAID within their publicly-funded facilities. "These recent stories sadly point to the undue pain and suffering to these patients who may not have had the option but to be placed in these facilities," states Azocar. "Covenant Health provides the bulk of palliative care in this province, and the transfer of patients from institutions during this very private, personal and painful moment in patients' lives is a difficult problem which must be resolved," adds Azocar.
Brad Peter of Dying with Dignity Canada, revealed that over 70 people have been moved from Covenant Health facilities since 2016 in order to exercise their rights to receive Medical Assistance in Dying. As neither Covenant Health nor Alberta Health Services tracks these numbers, it is unknown exactly how many people have been forced to move to undergo an assessment.
MAID is a fairly new legislation, and as Canadians learn to navigate its legal and ethical ramifications, it has become clear that it has resulted in confusion and is open to interpretation by those assessing and providing MAID services. This is a federal legislation and it does not deal with the manner in which provinces implement health services. It is a matter for provinces and regional health authorities to take a position and create their own legislation to close interpretive gaps and ensure appropriate access to care.
In Alberta, the College of Physicians and Surgeons can regulate doctors but not institutions. While physicians have the right to opt-out of providing MAID, they also have the responsibility to ensure that the patient is well-equipped and that meaningful referrals are made so that patients can access the service. "In our public health care system, institutions who are in receipt of public funding should also have a responsibility to ensure that all Albertans receive the same level of care and service," says Azocar. "Faith based institutions should not be able to interpret the law to the point where those Albertans who are seeking a perfectly legal public medical service are impeded from having equitable access."