Tree in Graveyard

Medical Assistance in Dying is a sensitive and important personal right for persons undergoing extreme health challenges.

Who can help you

Our BC Notaries would be happy to discuss MAiD with you:

Linda Caisley at Kelowna-Downtown
Fraser McKinnon at Penticton
Debra van Beers at Westbank

Our BC Lawyers would be happy to discuss MAiD with you:

Jaime Boyle at Kelowna-Downtown
Daniel K. Lo at Penticton
Keith Martens at Kelowna-Enterprise & Spall

Medical Assistance in Dying is a very difficult, emotional topic.

What is Medical Assistance in Dying?

Medical Assistance in Dying (called MAiD) is a medical treatment that helps people end their lives with the assistance of a qualified health care practitioner.

Interior Health: 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.

This is new area of law in Canada, and there are a number of challenges to the legislation as it exists now that could change or invalidate this information.

Why is MAiD allowed?

Suicide isn’t a crime in and of itself. However, it is a crime under the Criminal Code to counsel someone to commit, or to assist someone in committing suicide.

But persons with disabilities who were considering suicide were often unable to successfully complete a suicide because of physical inabilities or limitations. So a case was brought before the Supreme Court of Canada to challenge this provision of the Criminal Code, at least as it relates to medical or nurse practitioners.

In 2015, the Supreme Court of Canada heard the case of Carter v Canada, and found that the prohibition on assisted suicide violated the “Life, liberty and security” provisions of s. 7 of the Charter of Rights and Freedoms.

Section 7 of the Charter of Rights and Freedoms reads:

Life, liberty and security of person

7. Everyone has the right to life, liberty and security of the person and the right not to be deprived thereof except in accordance with the principles of fundamental justice.

Those provisions making assisted suicide a crime would become void where there is “clear consent and the individual has a grievous and irremediable medical condition that causes enduring suffering that is intolerable to the individual in the circumstances of his or her condition.”

It was necessary to revise the Criminal Code as a result of the decision in Carter. Bill C-14 received royal assent on June 17th, 2016, and now the ban on assisted suicide in the Criminal Code contains exemptions for certain kinds of health care practitioners.

The Current Process

In order to receive MAiD, which is considered a form of medical treatment, you must make a written request to your doctor or nurse practitioner. This request must be signed by two independent witnesses. We are able to act as witnesses for you on this document if you do not have anyone else you would like to use.

If you cannot write, another adult can sign on your behalf under your direction. The form to fill out for BC is available here.

Your medical practitioner and another independent medical practitioner must confirm that you meet the criteria for MAiD as set out in the Criminal Code, follow a number of safeguards and then wait a 10 day period before providing the services (a delay that can be waived in exceptional circumstances).

They will inform you that you may chose to withdraw your request at any time, and they must confirm that you consent to the service before it is performed.

Qualifying criteria

In order to be eligible, your medical practitioner must be satisfied that all of the following is true:

  • You are eligible for government funded health services
  • You are at least 18 years of age, and capable of making health care decisions for yourself
  • You’ve made a voluntary request free of outside pressure or influence
  • You’ve given informed consent to receive MAiD
  • You have a grievous and irremediable medical condition.

To be grevious and irremediable, a condition must be an illness, disease or disability that:

  • is in an advanced and irreversible state of decline
  • that causes unbearable physical or mental suffering that cannot be relieved under conditions you consider acceptable
  • will cause a reasonably foreseeable death, taking into account all medical circumstances.

What is a reasonably foreseeable death?

The case of A.B. v Canada has clarified the issue recently, confirming that a reasonably foreseeable death is not restricted to terminal illnesses. It further confirms that medical practitioners have a broad discretion in reaching that finding, and that they need to put their mind to precisely when death is likely to occur or reach a specific length of time to qualify.

Can you give me medical advice?

No. You must discuss your diagnosis and your treatment options with your health care providers.

If you have appointed a Representative under a Representation Agreement, that representative can also help you discuss your options with you and your health care providers.

How do BC Notaries and Lawyers help in this process?

Since this is a relatively new procedure in Canada, it it is important to ensure you are properly prepared for the end of your life. This may include the preparing of testamentary documents, such a Will, or selling or otherwise disposing of assets for estate planning purposes.

Our BC Notaries and lawyers can help you with these discussions and documents. The MAiD procedure also requires independent witnesses, and we can also help you with this function. Our lawyers can also discuss your options with you if your MAiD request is denied.

Thanks to Derrick Murphy for assistance with this post.


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