Legal framework and description

The Act Respecting End-of-Life Care is designed to provide a framework for palliative care and medical aid in dying.

End-of-life situations can be difficult. Despite quality care and support given to patients at the end of life, in a minority of cases, palliative care may not be sufficient to relieve suffering in a satisfactory manner. The Act Respecting End-of-Life Care allows an additional option to be offered to these persons for whom all therapeutic, curative and palliative options have been deemed unsatisfactory and who would rather die than continue to suffer.

Medical aid in dying consists of a doctor administering medication to patients at the end of life, at their request, in order to relieve their suffering by bringing about their death. This care is available in all institutions in Québec’s health and social services network and in a few palliative care hospices. A person may also ask to be provided with medical aid in dying at home.

Medical aid in dying is an exceptional intervention with very restrictive conditions. The use of this intervention is governed by strict guidelines set out in the Act.

Requests for medical aid in dying are still rare. In some countries where this possibility exists, and where access criteria are different and less restrictive than in Québec, it is estimated that medically assisted deaths represent about 2% of all deaths.