Region CEO comments on Physician Assisted Death court case

Winnipeg Regional Health Authority
Published Tuesday, March 15, 2016

The following is a statement from Milton Sussman, President and Chief Executive Officer of the Winnipeg Regional Health Authority:

Today, a patient in Manitoba applied to the Manitoba Court of Queen’s Bench for an order permitting Medical Assistance/Aide in Dying (MAID). This application marks the first time a patient in our province has sought a ruling to permit MAID. Late this afternoon, the judge granted this patient’s request.

As you know, in February, 2015, the Supreme Court of Canada in Carter V. Canada, struck down the criminal code prohibition on MAID but suspended the effect of their ruling for a period of one year to allow the federal government to enact new legislation on this issue. Earlier this year, the Supreme Court of Canada gave the federal government a further 4 months (until June 6, 2016) to establish the legislation. During this extension, individuals can apply to the courts for MAID.

The first such case in Manitoba was heard this afternoon. An order from the judge granting the application for MAID was issued immediately after the hearing. If the patient now chooses to proceed, the patient will become the first to be granted permission for MAID in our province. As part of the application, counsel involved sought and received provisions in the court order to protect the privacy of the patient, the physicians and other healthcare providers involved. While this matter will be reported on and media will be attending the proceedings, they will not have access to names and other identifying information.

I know the issue of MAID is one which prompts many questions and sometimes concerns on behalf of patients, their families, health care providers and the community broadly. The WRHA has established a working group which has been reviewing the issue of MAID and the numerous implications it has for our staff and patients.

While we await formal legislation, it’s important to understand our roles as health providers should a patient approach seeking more information on MAID.

I know some of you will feel comfortable engaging in a conversation about MAID, others won’t. No one will be compelled to participate in these discussions or in the process of MAID. I do expect, though, that all patients have access to resources and information about MAID.

Should a patient approach you seeking information on MAID, regardless of your position, I ask that you reach out to the Chief Medical Officer (CMO) or the Chief Nursing Officer (CNO) in your facility who will then connect with Dr. Brock Wright, Senior Vice-President, Clinical Services & Chief Medical Officer of the WRHA to connect with the patient directly. A resource will be set up for physicians and staff to provide to patients so a direct referral is not required but this has not yet been established. If you would like information to better inform your practice or would like to share information with us electronically, please use the email address that has been set up for this purpose.

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The Winnipeg Regional Health Authority acknowledges that it provides health services in facilities located in Treaty One and Treaty Five territories, the homelands of the Métis Nation and the original lands of the Inuit people. The WRHA respects and acknowledges harms and mistakes, and we dedicate ourselves to collaborate in partnership with First Nation, Métis and Inuit people in the spirit of reconciliation.
Click here to read more about the WRHA's efforts towards reconciliation

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