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End of life care

Part 5: Medical assistance in dying

End of life care

There is an important and notable distinction between the intended outcomes of MAiD and palliative care. The purposeful and intended outcome of MAiD is to assist a person explicitly requesting assistance in dying to end his or her life in a respectful, culturally appropriate, safe, ethical and competent manner.

Palliative care differs from MAiD in that the purpose of palliative care is to improve the quality of life of a person experiencing a life-limiting illness. MAiD is not an appropriate alternative for a person who is seeking palliative care. While palliative care activities such as pain management or palliative sedation may result in the unintended hastening of death, the intended outcomes of these palliative care activities are to reduce intractable pain and extreme suffering at the end of life.

Nurses have important roles in providing high quality client-centered end of life care, which includes activities such as advocating for clients, providing information, participating in decision-making, caring for and supporting clients and their families and collaborating with members of the health care team to ensure that clients have their care and information needs met.

As noted previously, the Criminal Code sets out an express requirement for a person requesting medical assistance in dying to be informed of the means that are available to relieve their suffering, including palliative care. This supports the person requesting MAiD to gather information needed to make informed decisions about their health care options for end of life care and palliation.

Witnessing and signing MAiD requests