Seeking Medical Assistance in Dying is a deeply personal decision. It is very important to discuss your wishes with your family members and loved ones, as well as anyone else who can support you.
It is normal to have questions and it is important to know that not every person who inquires about Medical Assistance in Dying will be eligible. Of those who are, only a certain number will move forward with the process once alternative options have been explored.
Whatever you decide, your health-care team is here to honour and respect your wishes.
What is Medical Assistance in Dying?
Medical Assistance in Dying is a process in which a doctor or nurse practitioner helps a patient who wants to voluntarily and intentionally end their life by administering drugs that can be taken by mouth or given intravenously.
Medical Assistance in Dying has been legal in Canada since June 2016 and is governed under federal law. This law sets out the eligibility requirements and processes under which Medical Assistance in Dying can be provided to a patient.
Who is eligible to receive Medical Assistance in Dying?
To receive Medical Assistance in Dying, you must meet all of the following criteria:
- Have a grievous and irremediable medical condition (illness, disease or disability)
- Be suffering intolerably from this condition
- Be in an advanced state of decline that cannot be reversed
- Be at the point in your condition where natural death is reasonably foreseeable
- Be at least 18 years old
- Be eligible for publicly-funded health services in Canada
- Request assistance without pressure or influence from anyone else
- Give informed consent throughout the process, including at the final moment prior to the provision of Medical Assistance in Dying
How can I learn more about Medical Assistance in Dying?
If you believe you meet all the criteria and want to find out more, please talk to the doctor or nurse practitioner who is most responsible for your care.
Please understand that doctors and nurse practitioners are not obligated to help you with this process if they do not personally agree with it. However, they must connect you with other care providers who can help you.
In addition, you can ask any member of your care team to bring your request to the attention of your doctor or nurse practitioner.
If you have questions or difficulty accessing information or services related to medical assistance in dying, please contact Interior Health:
- By phone: 250-870-4669 (within Kelowna area)
1-877-442-2001 (toll-free from other areas)
- By email: use our online form
How does the process work?
Your doctor or nurse practitioner will discuss your medical condition with you. They will make sure you have considered all the services or treatments that are available to you. These may include comfort care, pain control, hospice care, palliative care or other options.
You do not have to accept any of these services, but it is important you know about them before you pursue Medical Assistance in Dying.
If you choose Medical Assistance in Dying, please know you can change your mind and stop the process at any point before the medication has been given.
Patient request form
Once you have discussed Medical Assistance in Dying with your care providers, your family, and your other supports, a written record of the patient request must be completed. By signing this form, you are formally asking for Medical Assistance in Dying and stating that you believe you meet the criteria. You can download the form from the Ministry of Health website, or get it from your doctor or nurse practitioner.
In addition, you will need to complete a Request for Access to Personal Health Records form. This form will allow your care team to share your request with the physician or nurse practitioner who will help you move through the process.
Assessment form (for physician and nurse practitioner use)
The assessment form ensures that you are aware of other options, that you meet the criteria for Medical Assistance in Dying, and that you have the mental capacity to make this important decision. Two different doctors or nurse practitioners must each do separate assessments. If they are not sure whether you are capable of making health-care decisions, a medical professional with expertise in mental capacity may also be consulted.
Period of reflection
If the assessment shows you are eligible for Medical Assistance in Dying, federal law requires a 10-day “period of reflection” before Medical Assistance in Dying can take place. For legal reasons, this period begins the day following the completion of the patient request form and ends the day after Day 10 (actually 12 days). The waiting period can be shortened in certain circumstances. You and your doctor or nurse practitioner can make this decision together.
Where can Medical Assistance in Dying take place?
During the period of reflection, if you are receiving care in an Interior Health program, your health-care team will work with you to decide where Medical Assistance in Dying will take place. The team will help you arrange support or other services to make you as comfortable as possible.
You can choose to receive Medical Assistance in Dying in your own home (which is what most people prefer), in a residential care home, or in hospital. You can also decide if you’d like anyone with you.
Information for health-care providers