Medical Assistance in Dying (MAiD): A Descriptive Study From a Canadian Tertiary Care Hospital

Debbie Selby, Sally Bean, Elie Isenberg-Grzeda, Blair Henry D Bioethics, Amy Nolen
American Journal of Hospice & Palliative Care 2019 June 30, : 1049909119859844

BACKGROUND: In June 2016, the Government of Canada passed Bill C-14 decriminalizing medically assisted death. Increasing numbers of Canadians are accessing medical assistance in dying (MAiD) each year, but there is limited information about this population.

OBJECTIVE: To describe the characteristic outcomes of MAiD requests in a cohort of patients at an academic tertiary care center in Toronto, Ontario, Canada.

METHODS: A retrospective chart review of patients making a formal request for a MAiD eligibility assessment from July 16 to September 18. Data extracted included demographics, diagnosis, psychosocial characteristics, information relating to the MAiD request, and clinical outcome.

RESULTS: We received 107 formal requests for MAiD assessment. Ninety-seven patients were found eligible, of whom 80 received MAiD. Cancer was the primary diagnosis for 78% and median age was 74 years. The majority of patients (64%) cited "functional decline or inability to participate in meaningful activities" as the main factor motivating their request for MAiD. Half of patients who received MAiD (46%) described their request as consistent with a long-standing, philosophical view predating their illness. The 10-day reflection period was reduced for 39% of provisions due to impending loss of capacity. Our cohort was very similar demographically to those described both nationally and internationally.

CONCLUSION: Patients seeking MAiD at our institution were similar to those described in other jurisdictions where assisted dying is legal and represent a group for whom autonomy and independence is critical. We noted a very high rate of risk of loss of capacity, suggesting a need for both earlier assessments and regular monitoring.


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