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Medical Assistance in Dying

A Scoping Review to Inform Nurses’ Practice

Suva, Grace, MN, RN; Penney, Tasha, MN, RN; McPherson, Christine J., PhD, RN

Journal of Hospice & Palliative Nursing: February 2019 - Volume 21 - Issue 1 - p 46–53
doi: 10.1097/NJH.0000000000000486
Feature Articles

In June 2016, Bill C-14 or Medical Assistance in Dying legislation became law in Canada. With this law came changes to nurses’ (ie, nurse practitioner, registered nurse, registered practical nurse) scopes of practice, roles, and responsibilities. While federal law, regulatory, and organizational policies are developed to inform nurses about the practice of medical assistance in dying, there is little evidence examining how nurses’ roles and responsibilities are enacted in practice. Therefore, a scoping review was conducted to synthesize the evidence on nurses’ roles and responsibilities in relation to medical assistance in dying and to identify gaps in the literature. A secondary aim was to identify organizational supports for nurses to effectively and ethically engage in medical assistance in dying. Using a recognized and rigorous scoping review methodology, the findings from 24 research studies were synthesized in this article. The analysis highlights the importance of effective health care professional engagement with the individual in the decision-making process and of the need to educate, support, and include nurses in providing medical assistance in dying. Overall, the current research on medical assistance in dying is limited in Canada, and more attention is needed on the role of the nurse.

Grace Suva, MN, RN, is manager, International Affairs and Best Practice Guidelines Centre, Registered Nurses’ Association of Ontario, Toronto, Canada.

Tasha Penney, RN, MN, is manager, International Affairs and Best Practice Guidelines Centre, Registered Nurses’ Association of Ontario, Toronto, Canada.

Christine J. McPherson, PhD, RN, is associate professor, tenured, School of Nursing, Faculty of Health Sciences, University of Ottawa, Ontario, Canada.

Address correspondence to Grace Suva, MN, RN, International Affairs and Best Practice Guidelines Centre, Registered Nurses’ Association of Ontario, 158 Pearl St, Toronto, ON, Canada M5H 1L3 (gsuva@rnao.ca).

This work was supported by the Registered Nurses’ Association of Ontario (RNAO), which receives funding from the Ministry of Health and Long-Term Care. All work produced by RNAO is editorially independent from its funding source.

The authors have no conflicts of interest to disclose.

© 2019 by The Hospice and Palliative Nurses Association.