Registed Nurses' Association of Ontario


Registered Nurses' Association of Ontario (RNAO) tackles end-of-life care at annual meeting


TORONTO, April 13, 2015 – The top provincial nursing association representing Ontario's RNs, NPs and nursing students will host a keynote panel on end-of-life care this Saturday, as part of its 90th annual general meeting (AGM).

The Registered Nurses' Association of Ontario (RNAO) began this conversation last April with a resolution to urge dialogue on end-of-life care and a principled discussion about assisted dying, which received wide support from the association's consultation representatives. This year, in light of the Supreme Court of Canada decision to overturn the ban on assisted dying, the conversation is even more important, RNAO says.

End-of-Life Care: Voices and Perspectives will round out RNAO's 90th AGM, and feature voices from a variety of perspectives, such as palliative care and parish nursing, law, and personal accounts. Members of the public and journalists are welcome to attend.

"It is of utmost importance that nurses lead the charge when it comes to driving conversations on end-of-life issues," says RNAO President Dr. Vanessa Burkoski. "Death, dying, universal access to comprehensive palliative care, and assisted death – these topics all have tremendous ethical, legal and policy implications for nurses, health-care providers, and the public. That's why it is vital to ensure everyone is able to share their thoughts, and to engage in open and respectful dialogue."

RNAO, which has refrained from taking a stance on the highly divisive topic of assisted death, has called for the establishment of a principled, regulatory framework to guide implementation of the Supreme Court's decision. The association has also urged involving nurses in the development of a national and/or provincial framework. At its 2014 AGM, RNAO members passed a resolution approving a set of principles to be incorporated when discussing assisted death. Some of these principles are contained in the Supreme Court ruling.

"RNAO has held webinars involving more than 500 members on this fundamental and most sensitive aspect of public policy, and we will continue to keep our promise to nurses and the public to advance dialogue on the court ruling. Nurses have a important role to play in these conversations," says Dr. Doris Grinspun, RNAO CEO. "End-of-life care affects RN, NPs and nursing students across the health system – from advanced planning, to palliative care, to policy and practice changes resulting from the Supreme Court's ruling. That is why we will continue to bring our voice, and engage with the public and lawmakers to ensure we keep the patient's best interest and wishes at the forefront, so that people in our country can die with comfort, peace and dignity."


Panellists include:

  • Moderator: Carol Goar, columnist at the Toronto Star
  • Rahool Agarwal, associate, Norton Rose Fulbright Canada LLP
  • Dr. Vanessa Burkoski, RN, BScN, MScN, DHA, president of RNAO
  • Lesley Hirst, RGN (UK), RN, MN, MSc, OCN, president of RNAO's Palliative Care Nurses Interest Group
  • Michelle O’Rourke, RN, MA, member and delegate of RNAO's Parish Nursing Interest Group, and author
  • Maureen Taylor, physician assistant at Toronto East General Hospital, widow of Dr. Don Low
  • Dr. Peter Van Bogaert, professor, Division of Nursing and Midwifery Science, Antwerp University, Belgium
  • RNAO members will also be in attendance


  • End-of-Life Care: Voices and Perspectives: a panel featuring an open dialogue on end-of-life care


  • Saturday, April 18, 2015 from 11:30 a.m. to 12:30 p.m.


  • Hilton Toronto, Toronto Ballroom, 145 Richmond St. W., Toronto, ON, M5H 2L2

Read RNAO's resolution and backgrounder on end-of-life care.

Members of the media are welcome to attend. This event will also be available via live webcast. Register for the event.

This year marks the Registered Nurses' Association of Ontario's (RNAO) 90th anniversary. RNAO is the professional association representing registered nurses, nurse practitioners, and nursing students in Ontario. Since 1925, RNAO has advocated for healthy public policy, promoted excellence in nursing practice, increased nurses’ contribution to shaping the health-care system, and influenced decisions that affect nurses and the public they serve. For more information about RNAO, visit our website at or follow us on Facebook and Twitter.


For more information, please contact:

Marion Zych
Director of Communications, RNAO
Cell: 647-406-5605 / Phone: 416-408-5605

Daniel Punch
Communications Officer/Writer, RNAO