Since March 12, 2020, the “end-of-life” criterion in the Act respecting end-of-life care is no longer applied following the Superior Court of Québec’s Baudouin decision. On March 17, 2021, amendments to Canada’s Criminal Code came into effect that modify existing safeguards for eligible people whose natural death is reasonably foreseeable.
The Criminal Code sets out two paths to eligibility for medical aid in dying: one for people whose natural death is reasonably foreseeable and another for people whose natural death is not reasonably foreseeable.
The information on this page does not replace that of the official legislations.
A patient may at any time asks a health professional for information about medical aid in dying. The person can then decide whether or not to make a formal request for medical aid in dying.
Patients must request medical aid in dying themselves, in a free and informed manner, using the prescribed form. A formal process must be followed to set the procedure in motion and make the request official; otherwise medical aid in dying cannot be administered.
Here is the procedure for requesting medical aid in dying:
- Make a verbal request to a health and social services professional.
- Submit a written request using the Request for medical aid in dying form available from a health or social services professional.
- Sign the form in the presence of a health professional. The form must be countersigned by the health professional and an independent witness.
- Repeat the verbal request in every discussion with the doctor
Witnesses are not independent if they know, or think, that they are a beneficiary under the will or that they will receive other benefits upon the death of the person requesting medical aid in dying.
Patients who have requested medical aid in dying are free to change their mind. At any time, and by any means, they can:
- Withdraw their request for medical aid in dying
- Request that administration of medical aid in dying be postponed
If the patient requesting medical aid in dying cannot date and sign the form because he or she cannot write or is physically incapable of doing so, a third person may do so in the patient’s presence and according to his or her instructions. The third person must meet the following conditions:
- Be legal of age and capable
- Not be a member of the care team of the person requesting medical aid in dying
- Understand the nature of the request for medical aid in dying
- Not know or believe that he or she is a beneficiary under the will of the person requesting medical aid in dying or that he or she will receive other material benefits, especially a benefit with monetary value, as a result of the person’s death.
The doctor must then assess the patient’s eligibility for medical aid in dying, obtain the opinion of a second, independent doctor to confirm that the criteria for obtaining medical aid in dying have been met, and administer medication if applicable, according to the criteria set out by the Act. The doctor must also make sure that the patient’s relatives receive the necessary support and care before, during and after the administration of medical aid in dying.
When a doctor administers medical aid in dying, they must, within 10 days, notify the Council of doctors, dentists and pharmacists of the institution where the patient resides or, if the doctor practises in a private health facility, the Collège des médecins du Québec. The doctor must also complete the single form for the declaration of information relating to medical aid in dying, which contains information required under Québec and federal regulations.