Advance Requests for Medically-assisted Dying
53 Pages Posted: 22 Feb 2021
Date Written: February 19, 2021
When medical assistance in dying (MAiD) was legalized in Canada in June 2016, the question of allowing decisionally capable persons to make advance requests in anticipation of later incapacity was reserved for further consideration during the mandatory parliamentary review originally scheduled to begin in June 2020 (but since delayed by COVID-19). In its current form the legislation does not permit such requests, since it stipulates that at the time at which the procedure is to be administered the patient must give “express consent” to receiving it. Since express consent presupposes decisional capacity, this requirement rules out administering MAiD to a patient who has lost capacity. Amendments to the legislation subsequently tabled by the government in February 2020 would open the door slightly by allowing advance requests by patients after they have been approved for MAiD, if they fear losing capacity before the procedure can be administered. But this provision would apply only to patients whose natural death was deemed to be “reasonably foreseeable”, and would continue to exclude (a) requests made after diagnosis of a “grievous and irremediable medical condition” but in advance of approval for MAiD, and (b) requests made before such a diagnosis. My aim in this paper is twofold: to explore the ethical and legal issues concerning advance requests for MAiD, and to argue for expanding provision for such requests to include both of these further scenarios.
Keywords: medical assistance in dying; end of life; advance requests; advance directives; informed consent; decisional capacity
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