Medical Assistance in Dying — Know Your Rights

Medical Assistance in Dying — Know Your Rights

The Parliament of Canada passed federal legislation in 2016 that allows Canadian adults who meet certain criteria to request medical asosistance in dying (MAID). If you or a loved one is suffering from a serious, debilitating conditin with no chance of improvement, you may be eligible for MAID. Are you being told you don’t meet the requirements? Contact one of our knowledgeable lawyers at Verhaeghe Law Office for assistance.

The Amendments

To ensure that the Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedoms was satisfied, the Supreme Court of Canada ruled that the sections of the Criminal Code that prevented medical assistance in dying were made invalid. Federal legislation was passed in June 2016 that allows Canadians who are eligible to request medical assistance in dying.

Who Can Help

Under the law, physicians and nurse practitioners (in certain provinces) can assist people who meet the legal requirements for MAID. Pharmacists, family members or others asked by the individual in question, and healthcare providers operating under the supervision of the physician or nurse practitioner can help without fear of criminal charges.

Note that the physician, nurse practitioner, and others who are directly involved must abide by the rules in the Criminal Code as well as provincial and territorial laws.

What If My Doctor Refuses?

Under the law, healthcare providers do not have to provide MAID. If they are uncomfortable with the practice for any reason, they cannot be forced to provide help. To find a provider who will assist with end-of-life MAID services, refer to the care and coordination systems developed in each province.


All of the criteria, as set forth by the law, must be met in order to be eligible for MAID. The individual must:

  • Be eligible for health services funded by the government, province, or territory
  • Be at least 18 years old and mentally competent (capable of making healthcare decisions)
  • Have a grievous and irremediable medical condition (meet all of the following)
    • Have a serious illness, disease, or disability
    • Be in an advanced state of decline that cannot be reversed
    • Experience unbearable physical or mental suffering from the illness that cannot be relieved
    • Be at a point where natural death is reasonably foreseeable (not a specific prognosis)
  • Be able to give informed consent

Please note that you do not have to have a terminal illness to qualify.

The Process

To initiate the process, the person must discuss end-of-life options with their physician or nurse practitioner and submit a written request. This request must be signed in front of two witnesses, and everyone must date the request. Once the request is submitted, the individual must undergo medical assessments to ensure eligibility. A ten-day waiting period is mandatory after a request is submitted to ensure that the individual has time to reconsider. Exceptions to the waiting period may apply. You may withdraw your request at any time during the process.

Your Rights

Canadians who are eligible have the right to medical assistance in dying. If you or a loved one is considering this option or if you have run into difficulty obtaining the services you are entitled to, please call Verhaeghe Law Office at 587-410-2500.

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