Physician-Assisted Dying: Do Doctors Need to Know More About Canada’s New Law?


Canada’s new medical assistance in dying (MAID) law is opening up access to more Canadians, but some say physician awareness needs to increase because patients are still being unfairly denied.

When Bill C-7 received Royal Assent on March 17, the new law came into force immediately. It removes the requirement that a person’s natural death must be reasonably foreseeable.

READ MORE: Canadian Senate passes Bill C-7, expanding physician-assisted dying to include mental illness

“The person could have an underlying disease or could be diagnosed at an early stage with something that will not necessarily be fatal, but that causes them persistent pain,” said Dr. Chantal Perrot, Advisor for Dying with Dignity Canada , at Global News.

This is why a woman from Edmonton does not understand why she was refused MAID. Shondra (who does not want to be identified for fear that her distant family will try to interfere with her decision) underwent the required assessments by two doctors in April, after the new law came into force.

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READ MORE: Alberta Patients Facing Difficulty Accessing Physician-Assisted Dying

The first doctor approved her for MAID, but the second told her that she was not sick enough to qualify.

“I (told the second doctor) I’m in pain day in and day out… my breathing is getting terrible and I (told him) I can’t live like this anymore,” Shondra told Global News.

“You want me to live, but you want me to suffer while waiting. It is not fair.”

The 67-year-old man suffers from advanced chronic obstructive pulmonary disease and is dependent on a 24-hour oxygen reservoir. She also suffers from fibromyalgia, thyroid disease and arthritis in the spine. , which she describes as a ‘bee sting’ sensation all over her body.

“(The pain) starts in my back and goes down to my arms and legs. It’s just excruciating, ”Shondra said.

“There is no quality of life for me. And I don’t want a quantity.

Perrot did not meet with Shondra, but the family physician and psychotherapist assessed over 100 patients in Ontario for MAID eligibility.

READ MORE: House of Commons and Senate collaboration on assisted dying bill hailed by senator

She feels that too few doctors know and understand the new law. And there have always been misconceptions about assisted dying legislation in Canada.

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“You never really needed to be close to death. Your death had to be something called ‘reasonably foreseeable’ or ‘reasonably foreseeable,’ explained Perrot.

“I think a lot of people, including some reviewers and providers of MAID, have misinterpreted ‘reasonably foreseeable’ as you must be terminally ill, in the weeks or months following a natural death, and whatnot. is not the case. “

The new law introduces a two-pronged approach: relaxing some rules for people whose death is relatively predictable and adding safeguards for those whose death is not.

For the latter group, this includes a minimum period of 90 days between the person’s first assessment and the time they receive MAID.

Perrot says MDA teams are required to educate patients about all treatment and support options to help them alleviate their pain and suffering, and to ensure they make an informed decision.

Yet in her five years of MAID assessment and delivery, few have changed their minds.

“Most of the patients I have evaluated have been very clear in their belief: ‘I want MAID and I want it now and it is my right,” said Perrot.

“I’ve had a few patients who changed their minds because they didn’t think their family was supporting them and they didn’t want to hurt or upset their family. “

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Since 2016, when MAID became legal in Canada, more than 13,000 people have benefited from the procedure. At least 571 applicants were turned down.

The most common grounds for ineligibility, according to a 2019 Health Canada report, were applicants’ lack of ability to make health care decisions (32.2%), their natural death was not reasonably foreseeable (27.8%) and they were not in an advanced state of irreversible decline in capacity (23.5%).

Shondra has requested a third assessment.

” I can not go out. I’ve been isolated from COVID (-19) for a year and a half, and it’s terrible when you have to depend on strangers, ”Shondra said.

The only people she sees are her home care staff and grocery delivery men. She says she hasn’t left her apartment for over a year because she can’t go down the stairs with her walker.

The elderly person considered jumping from his balcony, but would rather die peacefully.

“I want to end this pain. I want to rest in peace.

© 2021 Global News, a division of Corus Entertainment Inc.


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