Will nurses be forced to participate in physician assisted death against their consciences?
The answer, according to this national nurses’ protection body is both yes and no.
The convoluted article in the Canadian Nurse Magazine by the Canadian Nurses Protection Society seems to both acknowledge conscience rights and deny them all in the same breath.
The use of the prescriptive is troubling in this paragraph (my emphasis):
Nurses are often the health-care professionals with whom patients choose to discuss end-of-life care. Once the Carter ruling comes into effect, nurses will remain involved in these discussions with the patient, family and health-care team, some of which will include a patient exploring the idea of physician-assisted death. Nurses will continue to provide patients with relevant information to the best of their ability. It can be anticipated that there will be times when a nurse will communicate to other members of the care team as quickly as possible — for example, when an eligible patient is seeking physician-assisted death or when an eligible patient had requested physician-assisted death but has changed his or her mind.
However, this paragraph seems to indicate that indeed nurses will be expected to participate in physician assisted death. Only a nod is given to conscience rights. (Again, my emphasis.)
Health profession regulatory bodies and health-care facilities will likely develop policies and protocols to address conscientious objections by health-care providers. If an eligible patient chooses to end his or her life by physician-assisted death, nurses must be prepared to provide for the patient’s care needs. The code of ethics contains information on ethical considerations in addressing patient expectations that are in conflict with one’s conscience. However, it states, “the nurse provides safe, compassionate, competent and ethical care until alternative care arrangements are in place to meet the person’s needs and desires.”
There may be no more patient to provide alternative care to if the attendant nurse meets the patient’s “needs and desires” in this regard.
If the Canadian Nurses Protection Society charged with providing legal protection for nurses is going to take the “must provide care until alternative can be found” stance, the pressure on nurses will be fierce. How many will leave the practice if medical death is enforced?