Medical Assistance in Dying
posted in: Medical Assistance in Dying + Wills and Estate Planning
Often referred to as assisted suicide, medically assisted dying is an important, sensitive, and emotional issue. It is important to find compassionate and professional support to help guide you through this process. This blog will discuss some common questions and provide general guidance to medical assistance in dying. Please note that this blog is for informational purposes only and is not a substitute for legal or medical advice.
Is Medical Assistance in Dying legal in Canada?
Yes. In June of 2016, the Federal government realized the importance of providing this option to Canadians and amended the Criminal Code to allow medical assistance in dying to be an exception to homicide in the Criminal Code. More recently, Bill C-7 was introduced to further amend the Criminal Code and establish rules surrounding medically assisted death.
What are the requirements to qualify for medical assistance in dying?
Section 241.2 of the Criminal Code sets out the requirements that must all be satisfied to qualify. The person in question must be eligible to receive health services funding from the government of Canada, be at least 18 years of age, have a grievous and irremediable medical condition, have made voluntary request for medical assistance in dying, and they have given informed consent.
To qualify as a grievous and irremediable medical condition, they must have a serious and incurable illness, be in an advanced state of irreversible decline, and the illness must cause them intolerable physical or psychological suffering.
How does the process work to receive medical assistance in dying?
The first step is to speak with your doctor or nurse and ask about the Medical Assistance in Dying Care Coordination Service or reach out to them directly at [email protected]. They will assign a coordinator to guide you through the process. Next, you will need to fill out a Record of Request and submit it for approval with the assistance of your medical professionals and the Medical Assistance in Dying Coordinator. As part of the Record of Request, the patient will need to be assessed by a medical professional to ensure they fulfill the requirements. Once approved, the patient will need to sign a written consent form which will set out the date and time the process will be administered.
Whether the patient’s death is reasonably foreseeable is a key determination that will affect the requirements and process that must be followed. If death is reasonably foreseeable, the process can be administered immediately after the required assessments have been completed and approval has been received. If death is not reasonably foreseeable, the assessment period must take a minimum of 90 days unless there is risk of the person losing capacity before the waiting period lapses to ensure proper reflection occurs. In either situation, final consent must be received immediately prior to the assistance in dying being administered.
If the person loses capacity, will medical assistance in dying still be an option?
Yes. The loss of capacity near end of life is often an issue in these circumstances. Only if death is reasonably foreseeable and you anticipate lose of capacity becoming an issue then you can complete a “Waiver of final Consent”. This waiver is an agreement with your medical practitioner to provide the medical assistance in dying despite the loss of capacity and the inability to provide final consent.
Can I stop a loved one from receiving medical assistance in dying?
No. Only the patient can withdraw their consent. The patient will always be given an opportunity immediately before being provided with medical assistance with dying to withdraw their consent, either verbally or by nonverbal indications. Concerned third parties cannot intervene in the process.
Can I elect for medical assistance in dying in my will or personal directive?
No. The election of medical assistance in dying ahead of time in estate documents is ineffective as the requirements outlined above will not be satisfied. Only when inflicted with a serious illness and after undergoing the above-mentioned steps can a person elect for medical assistance in dying.
At KMSC Law LLP, we are here to help with the difficult issues. Please reach out our Wills & Estates Team should you have any other questions regarding this process. More information can also be found by visiting the Alberta Health Services website or by speaking with your trusted medical professionals.