Medical Assistance in Dying – Information for Patients
Getting the right help
Death and dying can be difficult subjects to think and talk about. If you are thinking about medical assistance in dying, talk to someone who can help inform you about your potential options: a doctor, nurse practitioner or other health care provider. You can also speak with your family, friends or a spiritual advisor. If your suffering continues and you want to consider a formal request for medical assistance in dying you will need to speak with your doctor or nurse practitioner.
Your Doctor or Nurse Practitioner can guide you through the process
Your doctor or nurse practitioner can discuss your medical condition with you – your diagnosis and prognosis, and all the appropriate care options available. These may include different medical treatments, palliative care, psychological support, spiritual care and/or medical assistance in dying.
If you need help to understand the options – such as an interpreter or another kind of assistance – your doctor or nurse practitioner must take all necessary steps to ensure you can understand the information and can communicate your decision.
Some doctors or nurse practitioners may not want to provide medical assistance in dying. They may choose not to provide the service. However, in Ontario, it is their professional duty to refer you to a doctor or nurse practitioner who is available to assess you for medical assistance in dying. A care coordination service is available to clinicians, patients, caregivers and families looking for information and help to facilitate access to medical assistance in dying.
A request for medical assistance in dying must be in writing
Your doctor or nurse practitioner can provide you with a Patient Request form to complete. If you are physically unable to complete and sign the request, you can ask someone else to do it for you.
Your written request must be signed and dated after you are told by your doctor or nurse practitioner that you have a grievous and irremediable medical condition. You can withdraw your request at any time.
Your request must be signed and dated with two independent witnesses present. Other eligibility criteria for medical assistance in dying are listed in the federal legislation, available here.
Important to know:
- You must personally consent to medical assistance in dying. Another person, often called a substitute decision maker, cannot consent to medical assistance in dying on your behalf, or make the request for you.
- You cannot give consent in advance. You must be able to provide consent until the moment you receive medical assistance in dying, unless a waiver has been signed in advance.
- You can withdraw your request at any time.
- Even if you make the request, you can still receive all the other types of health care you need from your doctor or nurse practitioner.