Response to physician-assisted suicide in Canada by Jean Echlin

Jean Echlin, Palliative Care Nursing Specialist

DeVeber Advisor and palliative care nurse and expert, Jean Echlin RN, MScN, reflects on the issues this judgment places before Canadians and our future health care system:

“It must be remembered that nurses work closely with doctors following their orders and monitoring patients for any positive or adverse effects to treatment. Therefore nurses will automatically be assistants and collaborators in any type of inflicted death. In addition, social workers, chaplains and other members of the inter-professional team will be affected.”

Moreover, in her opinion, those who opt to carry out euthanasia and assisted suicide will no longer be trusted. As she believes that acute and long term care institutions that enable patients to be put to death will not be trusted. Persons afraid of being euthanized will avoid admission on the basis of fearing an untimely death.

Jean Echlin asks:

“What about the effect on our nurses and doctors?”

“How will those who inflict death deal with the emotional/psychological aftermath? 

Will they develop Post Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD) with its’ inherent anxiety, nightmares, depression and sui­cidal ideation? 

Will they have some type of devastating spiritual/existential struggle following the process of put­ting patients to death?”


“We all die—but …” do patients have a “right” to die? Jean suggests there is no choice, we all die. However we can demand from our provincial and federal politicians support for hospice palliative care that will ensure excellence in the management of pain and other noxious symptoms that cause suffering. We can call for and support quality end-of-life care for every Canadian. We can support those at highest risk in this new social disorder: the elderly, persons with physical and/or emotional disabilities, patients with chronic and life-altering or life-threatening diseases.
We can teach medical and nursing students how to support and care for those who are labeled terminally ill; continue to educate current care providers on the best practice guide­lines to meet the gold standard in palliative care; support and come along side those amazing professionals and vol­unteers who are currently involved in providing pain and symptom management; support the development of hos­pice palliative care in all facilities and in our communities.

We applaud Jean Echlin for her work and tireless efforts to improving the state of palliative care in Canada. WE congratulate Jean on her recent acceptance of the position of President of the Euthanasia Prevention Coalition (EPC). Jean was the founding Vice President of EPC. Ms. Echlin has had a successful career as a Nurse Consultant in Pal­liative Care and Gerontology. She is the Past Director of the Hospice of Windsor and she is currently an Adjunct Associate Professor - Faculty of Nursing at the University of Windsor, Ontario.
Martha Crean—on behalf of the deVeber Institute


Jean was awarded the Dorothy Lea award for excellence in Palliative Care (2004) by Hospice Palliative Care On­tario. In 2014, the deVeber Institute created the Jean Echlin Award for Ethics in Palliative Care.


Supreme Court Assisted Dying Decision A New Social Disorder_Jean Echlin Article.pdf769.3 KB