Patients and Families

Accessing medical assistance in dying

Frequently asked questions

Is medical assistance in dying legal?
Yes, medical assistance in dying is legal in Canada as long as the criteria established in the federal law (see below) are followed

Is medical assistance in dying ‘euthanasia’ or ‘suicide’?
It is both. There are two types of medical assistance in dying. They include where a physician:

  1. directly administers medication (intravenously) that cause death – commonly called voluntary euthanasia
  2. provides to a patient medication that they can self-administer (orally) to cause their own death – commonly known as physician (or medically) assisted suicide

How is medical assistance in dying different from withholding or withdrawing life-sustaining treatment?
Medical assistance in dying involves actions intended to cause death. Withholding and withdrawing life-sustaining treatments are decisions made to stop or not start interventions that would prevent an individual from dying.

If a patient wants more information about medical assistance in dying who should they contact?
Patients should speak with their physician and/or health care team.  Alternatively, patients may contact the provincial medical assistance in dying team who can provide more information and assist patients in accessing required services.

Where is medical assistance in dying available in Manitoba?
Medical assistance in dying is available throughout Manitoba.  There is a provincial medical assistance in dying clinical team available to help patients access this service.  Patients may also speak with their physician or local health authority or contact the provincial medical assistance in dying team regarding accessing medical assistance in dying in their region.

Is medical assistance in dying available in rural and remote areas?
Yes. Medical assistance in dying is available throughout Manitoba.

Is there a cost to patients for medical assistance in dying?
No, Manitoba residents eligible for insured medical services can access MAID at no cost in Manitoba. For more information on Manitoba health coverage, visit: http://www.gov.mb.ca/health/mhsip/index.html#Q1.

Must the illness, disease or disability be fatal or terminal for the patient to be eligible?
No. The medical condition need not be fatal or terminal.  However the condition must be grievous and irremediable and the patient must be in an advanced state of irreversible decline with their natural death reasonably foreseeable.

Can a person with mental illness receive medical assistance in dying?
Yes. Patients with mental illness may be eligible for medical assistance in dying as long as they meet all of the criteria listed above.  A patient with mental illness is NOT eligible for medical assistance in dying if: they are suffering only from mental illness; death is not reasonably foreseeable; or the mental illness reduces their ability to make medical decisions.

How long will it take to process a request for medical assistance in dying?
Currently the provincial Medical Assistance in Dying (MAID) clinical team predicts that the minimum time from the initial request to administration of medication that results in death is 2-3 weeks. Note that this is just a prediction and that the circumstances of each case will be unique.

Can a health professional, friend or family member make the request for medical assistance in dying on behalf of a patient?
No. The request must be made by the patient, who must meet all the eligibility criteria. However, if the patient is physically unable to initiate a friend or family member or health-care provider may initiate the request on their behalf.

Can a patient request medical assistance in dying in advance of experiencing suffering or receiving a diagnosis?
No.  Medical assistance in dying cannot be provided based on an advance request or directive.  Only the patient can request and consent to medical assistance in dying.  Medical assistance in dying cannot be provided at the request of a substitute decision maker.  Furthermore, the patient must be mentally competent and capable of giving consent at the time medical assistance in dying is provided.

Must the family of a patient requesting medical assistance in dying be consulted?
No. As with any other medical procedure, consulting with or informing others is at the patient’s discretion. Eligible patients who meet criteria and obtain approval from the health professionals involved do not need consent from or to discuss their decision with any other person.

What if a patient’s request for medical assistance in dying is not supported by their spiritual or religious group or their family?
The patient’s physician or health care team or the provincial medical assistance in dying clinical team can discuss this with the patient and/or refer the patient to a spiritual health practitioner.

Who can provide medical assistance in dying?
Currently in Manitoba only physicians can provide medical assistance in dying.  Those who can help in providing medical assistance in dying include: pharmacists, nurses, other health care providers, family members and other people the patient may ask to help.

What if a physician won’t provide medical assistance in dying?
Not all physicians will choose to participate in medical assistance in dying and no one will be forced to do so.  All health care providers have a responsibility to continue to provide other medically required care and ensure any patient requesting medical assistance in dying has timely access to a resource with information about medical assistance in dying.

Can people choose the medical team involved with their medical assistance in dying procedure?
Yes. Providing the health-care professionals are qualified and agree to be involved. Currently only the existing provincial medical assistance in dying clinical team is authorized to provide medical assistance in dying in provincial health facilities.

If a patient is eligible, do they have to proceed?  Do they have to proceed right away?
No.  Patients can change their mind and withdraw their consent at any time.  If a patient is deemed eligible and wishes to proceed they may determine their preferred timeline.

Who can be present at the procedure and where can it take place?
The patient, in consultation with the involved physician(s), may decide who is present at the time the procedure takes place. The procedure may take place in a healthcare facility, at the patient’s home or at another location agreed to by the patient and the involved physician.  A minimum two (2) medical professionals will be in attendance and often a social worker is asked to be present as well.

What are the medications that will be administered to cause death?
That information will not be provided publicly. However, the medications including their risks and effects will be explained to patients during the assessment process.

Once the medication is administered how long will it take for the patient to die?
Experience from in other countries suggests that most patients lose consciousness quickly and time of death can vary from minutes to hours.

What happens after the patient has died?
Once the physician has confirmed that the patient has died, the wishes of the patient regarding cremation or burial would be carried out as they would with any other form of death. For more information, visit http://residents.gov.mb.ca/death.html

Are there any issues with pension or life insurance if a patient receives medical assistance in dying?
It is recommended that patients requesting medical assistance in dying contact their pension and/or life insurance provider for specific information.