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Medical Assistance in Dying on PEI

In Canada, only physicians and nurse practitioners are permitted to provide a patient with Medical Assistance in Dying (MAID). The Criminal Code of Canada was amended in 2016 to allow these professionals to provide a MAID service without being criminally charged as long as they follow all applicable rules outlined in the Criminal Code and in provincial or territorial law.

No physician or nurse practitioner is obligated to provide this service.  If MAID goes against a health practitioner’s beliefs, they do not have to participate in the process. However, no health practitioner can act as a barrier against a patient seeking the service.

Two types of medical assistance in dying are available to Canadians:

  • a physician or nurse practitioner directly administers a substance that causes death; or
  • a physician or nurse practitioner provides or prescribes a drug that causes death that the patient takes themselves.

There are strict guidelines about who is eligible for the MAID service. The patient must:

  • be eligible for Medicare (publicly-funded health services in Canada);
  • be at least 18 years old and mentally competent;
  • have a severe medical condition that cannot be cured; 
  • be seeking the service voluntarily (no one pressuring or coercing the patient); and
  • give informed consent after being fully informed of all available options to ease suffering.

The person’s medical condition must:

  • be serious and incurable;
  • be in an advanced state of irreversible decline;
  • be causing the patient physical or psychological suffering that cannot be adequately relieved; and
  • be leading to natural death in the foreseeable future (however, you do not need to have a terminal condition to be eligible).

There are protections in place to ensure the safety of patients. For example, two independent health care practitioners must assess the patient and agree that the person qualifies for the service.

Two witnesses are required to be present while the patient signs the consent form. The witnesses help ensure the person’s consent is voluntary.

As well, the patient must be made aware that they may withdraw their consent for MAID at any time, with no consequences.

Also, while an exception can be made in extreme cases, there is a waiting period of 10 days between signing the consent form and the MAID process taking place. Finally, immediately before the MAID process, the patient is asked again if they wish to proceed.  

Advance requests for MAID are not currently legal.  If the patient cannot give informed consent on the day of the MAID process, perhaps due to unconsciousness or loss of mental capacity, it will not take place.  Substitute decision-makers, including a proxy in a Health Care Directive, cannot give consent on behalf of the patient.

To apply for the MAID service, the patient must:

  • talk to their physician or nurse practitioner about all care options and the MAID process*; and
  • make a written request that says they want to have a medically assisted death. The request must be signed and dated, with two witnesses’ signatures. (There are provisions to assist people who cannot write).

* If the patient does not have a health care practitioner, or if they would like to speak with someone different, they can call 811.  A nurse will refer them to a physician or nurse practitioner who can help.

The patient’s witnesses must be over 18 and they must understand the MAID process.  They cannot benefit from the death in any way; they cannot be an owner/operator of the care facility if the patient lives in one; and they cannot be directly involved in providing the patient with care.

The patient decides where the MAID process takes place, in collaboration with their MAID provider. For example, the patient may choose to die at home.

There is no fee for this service.

You decide who knows about your decision. Your health practitioner will not disclose your medical decisions to your family.

Palliative and other end-of-life services

Health PEI: Palliative care program: 902-368-4781 (Provincial)

Souris: 902-687-7096                                Montague: 902-838-0786

Charlottetown: 902-368-4790                 Summerside: 902-888-8440

O’Leary: 902-859-8730

Hospice Palliative Care Association of PEI: 902-368-4498

hpca@hospicepei.ca

Health PEI - Medical Assistance in Dying:

https://www.princeedwardisland.ca/en/information/health-pei/medical-assistance-dying

For more information, please call 811

ISBN: 978-1-897436-75-2