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Frequently Asked Questions

Is medical assistance in dying legal?

Yes, medical assistance in dying is legal in Canada as long as the criteria and safeguards established in the federal law are followed.

Is medical assistance in dying the same as withdrawing life-sustaining treatment?

No, medical assistance in dying is an intervention intended to cause death and does not require withdrawal of life-sustaining treatment.

Can a patient receive both palliative care and medical assistance in dying?

Yes, while the two are separate services, patients can receive both at the same time.

If a patient wants more information about medical assistance in dying, who should they contact?

Patients may speak with their physician and/or health-care team. Patients may also contact the provincial Medical Assistance in Dying team directly, who can provide more information and assist patients in accessing services.

Where is medical assistance in dying available in Manitoba?

Medical assistance in dying is available throughout Manitoba. There is a provincial Medical Assistance in Dying team available to help patients access this service. Patients may speak with their health-care provider or local health authority or contact the provincial Medical Assistance in Dying team directly regarding accessing medical assistance in dying in their region.

Is medical assistance in dying available in rural and remote areas?

Yes. Medical assistance in dying is available throughout Manitoba.

Is there a cost to patients for medical assistance in dying?

No. Manitoba residents eligible for insured medical services can access medical assistance in dying at no cost in Manitoba. For more information on Manitoba health coverage, visit: http://www.gov.mb.ca/health/mhsip/index.html#Q1

Must the illness, disease or disability be fatal or terminal for the patient to be eligible?

No, the medical condition need not be fatal or terminal. However, the condition must be serious and incurable and the patient must be in an advanced state of irreversible decline with their natural death reasonably foreseeable.

Can a person with mental illness receive medical assistance in dying?

Patients with mental illness may be eligible for medical assistance in dying as long as they meet all of the criteria listed in the law and have the capacity to make medical decisions for themselves.

How long will it take to process a request for medical assistance in dying?

The approximate time from the initial inquiry to administration of medications that result in death is 2-3 weeks. This is a minimum average and the circumstances of each case will be unique.

Can a health-care provider, friend or family member initiate the request for medical assistance in dying on behalf of a patient?

Yes. Anyone can contact the provincial Medical Assistance in Dying team on behalf of a patient. However, the patient must meet all the eligibility criteria, including being able to make medical decisions for themselves.

What if a patient has difficulty communicating?

Difficulty with communication, including speech, does not prevent patients from participating in the medical assistance in dying process. The provincial medical assistance in dying team includes speech-language pathologists who work with patients to ensure an effective and reliable means of communication during the review for eligibility and at the time medical assistance in dying is provided.

If the patient is physically unable to sign the request form, can someone else sign on the patient’s behalf?

Yes. Patients who are physically unable to sign and date the request form may have a proxy sign on their behalf. A proxy must be an adult who:

  1. is at least 18 years old
  2. understands what it means to request medical assistance in dying
  3. will not benefit in any way from the patient’s death

The proxy must sign the written request in the patient’s presence as directed by the patient, and cannot be either of the two independent witnesses.

An independent witness must:

  1. be 18 years of age or older
  2. understand what it means to request medical assistance in dying
  3. not benefit in any way from the patient’s death
  4. not be an owner or operator of any health-care facility where the patient lives or is receiving care
  5. not be directly involved in providing health care or personal care to the patient

Can a patient request medical assistance in dying in advance of experiencing suffering or receiving a diagnosis?

No. Medical assistance in dying cannot be provided based on an advance request or directive.

Does the family of a patient requesting medical assistance in dying need to be consulted?

No, patients do not need to involve their families. As with any other medical treatment, consulting with or informing others is at the patient’s discretion.

What if a patient’s request for medical assistance in dying is not supported by their spiritual or religious community?

The provincial medical assistance in dying team is available to discuss any concerns with the patient and connect the patient with a spiritual care provider and/or other supports as needed.

Who can provide medical assistance in dying?

The federal law allows for physicians and nurse practitioners to provide medical assistance in dying. Currently in Manitoba, only physicians can provide medical assistance in dying. Nurse practitioners may fully participate in discussions involving suffering and end of life care, including medical assistance in dying.

What if my primary health-care provider does not support medical assistance in dying?

Health-care providers are not obligated to provide or participate in medical assistance in dying. However, all health-care providers have a professional responsibility to ensure patients have access to medical assistance in dying.

Can people choose the medical team involved with their medical assistance in dying?

Yes, as long as the health-care professionals are qualified and authorized to be involved. Currently, only the provincial medical assistance in dying team is permitted to provide medical assistance in dying in Regional Health Authority facilities. The provincial medical assistance in dying team will work with your existing health-care team.

Who will be present at the time medical assistance in dying is provided?

At least one physician, along with a nurse and a social worker will be in attendance.

Can friend and family be present at the time medical assistance in dying is provided?

Yes, a patient can choose to have friends and family present at the time of a medically assisted death.

If a patient is eligible, does the patient have to proceed? Does the patient have to proceed right away?

No. There is no obligation to proceed with a medical assistance in dying at any time. If a patient is deemed eligible and wishes to proceed, the patient may determine their preferred timeline.

Where can medical assistance in dying occur?

Medical assistance in dying can be provided in most health care facilities*, at the patient’s home or at another location agreed to by the patient and the involved physician.

*This may differ if the patient is in abstaining facility.

What are the medications that will be administered to cause death?

The medications, including their risks and effects, will be explained to patients during the eligibility review process.

Once the medication is administered how long will it take for the patient to die?

At present only intravenous medications are used in Manitoba for medical assistance in dying. Most patients lose consciousness quickly and die within minutes.

What happens after the patient has died?

The physician will complete the Death Certificate, indicating the cause of death as the patient’s underlying medical condition (e.g. cancer, ALS, etc.). The funeral home is contacted and the wishes of the patient regarding cremation or burial would be carried out as they would with any other form of death. For more information, visit http://residents.gov.mb.ca/death.html.

Are there any issues with pension benefits or life insurance policies if a patient receives medical assistance in dying?

Amendments have occurred to ensure pension benefits and insurance policies remain valid when a patient receives medical assistance in dying. It is recommended that patients requesting medical assistance in dying contact their pension and/or life insurance provider for specific information.

Can a person who receives medical assistance in dying donate their organs?

Yes, it may be possible for some patients who receive medical assistance in dying to be an organ and/or tissue donor. This would need to be reviewed and determined on a case by case basis.

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