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Medical Assistance in Dying

Medical Assistance in Dying refers to a doctor or nurse practitioner helping a person, at the patient's capable, voluntary, and explicit request, to end their life.  The Criminal Code of Canada was officially changed in June 2016, setting out the eligibility requirements, safeguards, and processes under which medical assistance in dying can be provided to an eligible patient. 

An eligible patient can choose to receive medical assistance in dying in either of two ways .  Either the doctor or nurse practitioner gives a medicine to the person by intravenous injection that causes death, or they prescribe a medicine for the person to take themselves that causes death.  For both ways, the doctor or nurse practitioner is present for the death. 

Deciding to have medical assistance in dying is deeply personal.  Anyone thinking about this is encouraged to talk with their family, their loved ones, and/or anyone else who can support them through the process, including the doctor or nurse practitioner caring for them. 

It is normal to have questions - the following information is intended to help you explore the option of assisted dying. 

Whatever you decide, your health care team is here to work with you through this process and to honour and respect your wishes.  If you, your health provider, or your family have more questions about medical assistance in dying.  , please contact the Assisted Dying Program (see contact information below)

Who is eligible?

You may be eligible for assisted dying if you feel you meet all the criteria below, including that you:

  • are at least 18 years of age; 

  • are eligible for publicly funded health services in Canada; 

  • are able to make your own decisions about your health, and this decision in particular; 

  • have grievous and irremediable medical condition, that is: 

    • you have been diagnosed with a serious and incurable illness, disease, or disability; 

    • you suffer unbearably from your medical condition

    • your medical condition has advanced or declined to the point where it cannot be reversed; and

    • your death is reasonably foreseeable;

  • have been informed of the means that are available to relieve your suffering, including palliative care, and 

  • are making this request of your own free will, and not because of pressure or influence from others. 

What if I think I am eligible?

If you feel the list of criteria above applies to you and you want more information talk to your doctor or nurse practitioner.  If they are not able to provide you with information please call or email the Assisted Dying Program at Vancouver Coastal Health (see contact information below).

Please understand that individual doctors and nurse practitioners are not obligated to help you directly with this process if they do not personally agree with it, but they are expected to connect you with other care providers who can help you explore your request. 

What are the steps to explore medical assistance in dying?

1. Talk to others

Talk with your own doctor or nurse practitioner who can discuss your medical condition and all the services or treatments that are available to you.  Treatment options may include comfort care, pain control, hospice care, palliative care, or other options.  You are not required to accept any of these services, but it is our responsibility to ensure that you know about them as you consider medical assistance in dying. 

2. Complete some forms

Patient Request Record

If you wish to be assessed for eligibility you must complete and submit a Patient Request Record to the VCH Assisted Dying Program.  By signing this form you are formally asking for medical assistance in dying, stating that you believe you meet the criteria and that you consent to two independent assessments to ensure you meet the eligibility criteria.  You can get this form from your doctor or nurse practitioner, or by visiting Medical Assistance in Dying - BC GovernmentYou may pause or withdraw your request at any time. 

Release of Information

If you live within the area served by Vancouver Coastal Health (that is the lower mainland west of Boundary Road and north of the south arm of the Fraser River;  or on the Sunshine Coast, near Powell River, or on the Central Coast) we ask that you complete a Release of Information Form to confirm your authorization for your care team to share your information about your health with the Assisted Dying Program and physician or nurse practitioner who will be conducting your assessment and assisting you to move through this process.  This form will be provided by the Assisted Dying Program when we receive your Request Record. 

3. Assessments

Your doctor, nurse practitioner, or the Assisted Dying Program will arrange two assessments by two physicians or nurse practitioners, or one of each.  The assessment process ensures that you are aware of other options to alleviate your suffering, that you meet the criteria for medical assistance in dying and that you are capable to make this important decision.  Two different practitioners (doctors, nurse practitioners, or one of each) must each do separate assessments.  If they are not sure whether you are capable of making the decision, a medical professional with expertise in capability assessment may also be consulted to confirm that you are able to provide informed consent. 

4. Planning an assisted death

If the assessors agree that you are eligible and you decide to proceed, you will then decide when and where medical assistance in dying will take place, which is a deeply personal decision.  You may not wish to plan a date initially and prefer to contact us at a future date when you are ready.  You can talk more about this with the assessors. 

Can I change my mind?

Of course.  You can change your mind at any time about when to proceed, or whether to proceed at all. 

Where can assisted death take place?

You may choose to receive medical assistance in dying in your own home or, unless you are currently in a facility that does not allow medical assistance in dying, in that facility.  You can also decide if you would like anyone with you when medical assistance in dying is provided. 

Will patients have to pay for the drugs used to perform assistance in dying?

Patients are not responsible for the cost of medications used in assisted dying. 

Can I request medical assistance in dying in advance of experiencing suffering or even receiving a diagnosis?

Assessments or provision for medical assistance in dying cannot be provided based on an advance directive or other advance care plan or at the request of a substitute decision maker. Only the patient can request and consent to medical assistance in dying.  In order to receive medical assistance in dying, a patient must be able to clearly communicate their capable, informed, consent at the time of the procedure. 

Where can I get more information about medical assistance in dying?

Please see the resources linked on this page, or contact the Assisted Dying Program at Vancouver Coastal Health

Information for patients on medical assistance in dying:

More information about other end of life options

More information about end-of-life options can be found on the VCH Website for Palliative Care or the Government of Canada, Palliative Care

End-of-life planning

More information about end-of-life planning can be found on the Government of Canada, Options and decision-making at end of life website.  It is also important to contact your life insurance company to clarify if any life-insurance payouts may be affected by an assisted death. 

For more information and background on medical assistance in dying in Canada, see:

SOURCE: Medical Assistance in Dying ( )
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