An Update on Medical Assistance in Dying
The Government of Canada is developing regulations to establish a monitoring system in respect of medical assistance in dying (MAID), and it recognizes the importance of timely public reporting on the matter. To that end, its 2nd Interim Report on Medical Assistance in Dying in Canada provides information on requests for MAID made between January 1 and June 30, 2017, and includes some notable findings.
To summarize a few statistics gathered from participating jurisdictions, during the first half of 2017 there were reportedly more than 1000 medically assisted deaths, which represents an almost 50% increase since the first six months of the legislation being in place. However, taking all deaths in Canada into account this still represent less than 5% of overall deaths. There has also been an increase in the number of deaths administered outside of a hospital setting, although it is not yet known if this is a signal of improved facilitation for home-based assisted deaths or other factors (e.g. lack of services in institutions in smaller communities). In looking at demographics, the average age of the patient was 73. Although deaths spanned a vast population of persons aged 18+, most were between ages 56 and 85. The most common underlying medical condition associated with MAID was cancer, which made up more than 60% of all deaths.
Although the legislation is in its infancy, various jurisdictions have worked to implement legislation or policies related to the oversight and delivery of MAID. In Ontario, the Medical Assistance in Dying Statute Law Amendment Act came into force this year to provide greater clarity and legal protection for health care providers and patients. Further, Ontario launched a provincial care coordination service to help patients and their loved ones with access to additional information and services related to MAID and other end-of-life options.
It will be interesting to see the progression stemming from the MAID legislation, both from the perspective of growing services for providers, patients and caregivers, and from the standpoint of developing case law on the subject. With approximately one-third of applicants denied their requests, no doubt the court’s interpretation of the legislation will be moving at a clip.
Thanks for reading and have a good day,
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