In Quebec, as anywhere else in Canada, an eligible person may request medical assistance in dying (MAiD). However, the formal process, procedure and formalizing the request for medical assistance in dying still remains unknown to most people.
MedLégal’s health lawyers give you information on how to request medical assistance in dying.
Who can provide medical assistance in dying?
Medical assistance in dying can be provided by 2 types of health care professionals: physicians and nurse practitioners (in provinces that allow it).
In addition to these, other professionals or individuals can help provide MAiD: pharmacists, family members and health care providers who assist physicians and nurse practitioners in providing medical assistance in dying.
Medical assistance in dying: 2 options
There are 2 categories of medical assistance in dying in Canada:
- The direct administration of a medication or substance that causes death
- The prescription of a drug that causes death that the eligible person takes themselves. It is important to note that this option is not currently allowed in Quebec.
Requirements for medical assistance in dying
The requirements for medical assistance in dying are very strict. The process also involves several mandatory procedures that doctors and health care institutions must follow.
For the person who wants to receive medical assistance in dying
A person who wishes to receive medical assistance in dying must meet a wide range of conditions, which are as follows:
- Be 18 years of age or older
- Be capable of consenting to care
- Be insured within the terms of the Health Insurance Act
- Suffer from an incurable and serious illness
- Suffer from an advanced and irreversible decline in capacity
- Constantly experience unbearable mental and physical suffering that cannot be alleviated
Although until recently, the person also had to have a reasonably foreseeable natural death, this requirement is now unconstitutional. If you do not meet this requirement, it is possible to receive MA by obtaining a constitutional exemption. Please contact us to learn more about this.
For the physician administering the MAiD
The physician responsible for administering medical assistance in dying also needs to meet several requirements. These are as follows:
- Make sure that the person who wishes to obtain MAiD meets all the eligibility requirements
- Make sure that the person has had the opportunity to discuss their request with the people they wish to inform
- Receive the opinion of a second independent physician to confirm that all the conditions for obtaining MAiD have been met
- Be independent, with respect to both the person who made the request and the second doctor, who also needs to be independent
Process for getting medical assistance in dying
To request medical assistance in dying, an individual has to:
- Make a formal verbal request to a health and social services professional
- Submit a written request using the Request for medical aid in dying form, obtained from a health professional
- Sign the form in the presence of a health professional, which must be countersigned by the health professional and 2 independent witnesses
Following the process
Once the process for obtaining medical assistance in dying is done, the physician has to assess the person’s MAiD eligibility and validate the person’s ability to self-administer the medication, if applicable.
The physician also has to make sure that the person’s loved ones receive the support and assistance required before, during and after the administration of the MAiD.
In addition, a 10-day delay is required between the time of the MAiD application and the time it is administered. Under certain conditions, this period may be shortened.
Can you change your mind?
A person who applies for medical assistance in dying can change their mind at any time. They can either withdraw their application or postpone it.
Where to obtain MAiD
Medical assistance in dying can be requested anywhere in Canada. How and where this service is provided depends on the provinces and territories, the organizations responsible for supervising health care professionals, and medical facilities.
Medical assistance in dying: making an informed decision
Medical assistance in dying is offered everywhere in Canada. The process is very strict and must be well thought out since it requires the free and informed consent of the person who wishes to obtain it.
Contact us if you need help understanding the legal implications of medical assistance in dying.
We invite you to read the following related article: Does a patient have the right to refuse vital medical treatment?