Ontario Issues Plan for Medical Assistance in Dying

Effective June 6, 2016, medical assistance in dying is permitted in Ontario as a result of a decision by the Supreme Court of Canada.

In the absence of federal legislation and the establishment of a national framework for the provision of medical assistance to dying, the government of Ontario has issued the following statements to guide processes in Ontario:
  • Patients who wish to access medical assistance in dying should talk with their health care provider. Health care providers should consult their regulatory colleges about any rules, guidelines or practices regarding medical assistance in dying. 

  • Ontario's health regulatory colleges for physicians, nurses and pharmacists will provide guidance to help health care providers provide appropriate medical assistance in dying to patients who request this option. Ontario will also ensure that drugs required for medical assistance in dying will be available at no cost. 

  • Ontario will establish a referral service to support physicians in making an effective referral for consultation and assessment for possible medical assistance in dying cases. The service will help connect physicians who are unwilling or unable to provide medical assistance in dying with physicians who are willing to complete a patient consultation and assessment. 

  • While not required by the Supreme Court, the government encourages patients and health care providers to seek further clarity about how the Supreme Court's decision applies to their particular circumstances by bringing an application to the Ontario Superior Court of Justice. 

  • Ontario will continue to monitor the proposed federal legislation closely and continue engaging federal officials and other provinces and territories on issues related to this legislation as required. Moving forward, Ontario will also pursue amendments to provincial legislation to further support the implementation of medical assistance in dying.

For more information see the Ontario government's website.

Implications for occupational therapists

Occupational therapists have expressed sincere interest in monitoring legislative and framework development for legalized medical assistance to dying. Engaging in client-centred practice, OTs may be approached by clients wishing information about or contemplating medically assisted death. Clear guidance for health professionals to understand both the obligations of the law and regulatory standards and the flexibility of approach that these might afford is needed. OTs are encouraged to inform themselves about their employment setting's practice and approach relating to medically assisted death both in this interim period until federal law provides guidance and thereafter.

OSOT’s webinar resource OT Perspectives on Assisted Suicide and Euthanasia is a good resource for members. Presented in April 2015, the legislative context is based at that time, but the issues and implications for OT practice is still relevant. This is an opportunity for OTs to consider their own perspectives in light of a presentation by ethicist and occupational therapist Kevin Reel.  To order, click here.