Patients and their families have many decisions to make when faced with end-of-life care or intolerable suffering.
Legislation governing Medical Assistance in Dying (MAiD) was passed by the Federal Parliament on June 17, 2016. This means medical assistance in dying is now legal in Canada when provided within the purview of the legislation.
Under the new law, doctors may provide medical assistance in dying to capable, consenting adults who have a grievous and irremediable medical condition that causes enduring, intolerable suffering and who are at a point where natural death is reasonably foreseeable.
British Columbians seeking medical assistance in dying should speak with their physician or other primary care provider or their local health authority.
The BC Ministry of Health launched an updated Medical Assistance in Dying (MAiD) resource page for patients and families in December 2016.
Resources for patients and families
Hospitalist MAiD Service (VGH, RJH)
Inpatients of the Victoria General and Royal Jubilee Hospitals can access MAiD through an in-house referral, assessment and provision service. Contact the MAiD Program at firstname.lastname@example.org or 250-727-4382, or ask the Clinical Nurse Leader (CNL) on your ward for more information.
Questions about Medical Assistance in Dying
What is medical assistance in dying?
Medical assistance in dying (MAiD) occurs when an authorized health care provider provides or administers medication that intentionally brings about a person’s death, at that person’s request. This procedure is only available to eligible patients.
Who is eligible for medical assistance in dying?
According to legislation governing medical assistance in dying in Canada, in order for a doctor to provide a person with assistance to die, the person must meet all of the following criteria:
- Be eligible for health services funded by the federal or provincial government
- Be at least 18 years old and mentally capable
- Have a grievous and irremediable medical condition (serious illness, disease or disability)
- Be in an advanced state of decline that cannot be reversed
- Be suffering unbearably from your illness, disease, disability or state of decline
- Be at a point where your natural death has become reasonably foreseeable, which takes into account all of your medical circumstances
- Make the request for medical assistance in dying without outside pressure or influence, and provide informed consent
Doctors in B.C. must abide by the standards set out by the College of Physicians and Surgeons of BC. To ensure strong safeguards to protect vulnerable patients, the College has published standards for doctors on how best to care for patients seeking medical assistance in dying. For more information on the process to determine eligibility, see the College standards.
How can eligible patients receive medical assistance in dying in B.C.?
Patients looking to access medical assistance in dying should bring their wishes or questions to the attention of their doctor, who can discuss the options available to the patient or refer them to someone who can help.
Patients can expect requests for medical assistance in dying to be received in a compassionate and respectful manner. Before anyone is able to receive medical assistance in dying, they must be assessed to see if they are eligible for this service. This process also ensures the patient is aware of all of the care options available to them and has the information required to make an informed decision.
Where is medical assistance in dying available in B.C.?
Not all doctors are willing or able to provide medical assistance in dying. This is a new service and it will take time before doctors acquire the skills, training and experience to provide this service.
Patients should speak to their doctor regarding the options available. Medical assistance in dying will not be immediately available in every community, however, government is working to support patient-centred access within each region of the province.
Who is allowed to perform medical assistance in dying?
As of June 17, 2016, doctors and nurse practitioners are able to provide medical assistance in dying without facing criminal consequences, so long as they comply with the federal legislation and all applicable provincial and territorial laws, rules and policies. B.C. physicians must also follow the standards of the College of Physicians and Surgeons of British Columbia.
What if my doctor won’t perform medical assistance in dying?
For a variety of reasons, not all doctors will provide medical assistance in dying and no one will be forced to do so. For some, providing medical assistance in dying may conflict with their personal beliefs. Even if a doctor does not provide medical assistance in dying as a matter of conscience, a patient can still expect to be treated with respect and be provided with information on how to access this service. This means doctors must not discriminate against patients and must provide an effective transfer of care if they choose not to offer that care themselves.
Medical Assistance in Dying Service Providers (Physicians and Nurse Practitioners)
Within every health care jurisdiction, including within Island Health, there are physicians and nurse practitioners who are willing and able to support patients who are seeking Medical Assistance in Dying. They can determine if a patient is eligible for Medical Assistance in Dying. They can also provide patients with, and help patients to complete, the Patient Request Form and one of the two Medical Assessment Forms that are required.
Some physicians are also able to prescribe and carry out the actual procedure (“prescriber role”). Due to early limited training opportunities available in Canada, many of these health care providers took their training abroad.
Over time, as more training has become available in British Columbia, the number of health care professionals who are trained to provide Medical Assistance in Dying has increased.
While patients seeking Medical Assistance in Dying are encouraged to discuss their wishes with their family physician (GP) or nurse practitioner, they can also contact one of the following Island Health physicians directly:
|Dr. Prean Armogam||250-956-3377||Mt. Waddington/Strathcona|
|Dr. James Cox||
|Dr. Tanja Daws||250-334-2445||Courtenay|
|Dr. Stefanie Green||
|Dr. Howard Lee||Port McNeill|
|Dr. Jonathan Reggler||250-334-4411||Courtenay|
|Dr. Konia Trouton||Victoria|
|Dr. Gisela Wenzel-Smith||250-597-3390||Duncan|
|Dr. David Whittaker||250-956-3377||Port McNeill|
Island Health has designated supports to help patients requesting information on medical assistance in dying. These can be reached through:
250-727-4382 (Greater Victoria)
Toll Free: 1-877-370-8699