Nova Scotia’s Public Prosecution Service will not prosecute any physicians or members of a health-care team involved in a physician-assisted death so long as it falls within the scope of the Supreme Court of Canada’s 2015 Carter ruling on the issue, Director of Public Prosecutions Martin Herschorn said today, June 16.
Mr. Herschorn issued the directive to Crown attorneys across the province. The directive remains in effect until the federal government passes its medical assistance in dying legislation.
“We are in an unprecedented situation. In the absence of federal legislation, health-care professionals are concerned and this directive will provide clarity,” said Mr. Herschorn. “Crown attorneys will rely on this directive for guidance to ensure no prosecution of any health-care professional who has acted properly in a physician-assisted death.”
The directive recognizes that the work of physicians, pharmacists, nurses and other regulated health-care professionals must be protected to ensure the constitutional right of patients wishing assisted death are safeguarded.
The Public Prosecution Service consulted with police prior to issuing the directive.
“This directive clearly outlines the procedure police agencies in Nova Scotia, including the RCMP, will follow until proper legislation is passed and it was developed with the understanding that the safety and security of Nova Scotians must remain the top priority,” said Chief Peter MacIsaac, president of the Nova Scotia Chiefs of Police Association.
The Nova Scotia Public Prosecution Service was the first statutorily-based independent prosecution service in Canada. All prosecutions are the responsibility of the Director of Public Prosecutions. About 45,000 criminal code and 10,000 regulatory offence prosecutions are conducted annually by 90 Crown attorneys across the province.
The Public Prosecution Service directive can be found at http://novascotia.ca/pps/publications/ca_manual/Physician-Assisted-Death.pdf