What is the difference between medical assistance in dying and euthanasia?

There is none. Euthanasia is simply the globally accepted medical and legal term. In Quebec and Canada’s current social context, the expression “medical assistance in dying” is preferred.

(NB: An important distinction must be made between euthanasia, a word with Greek etymological origins meaning “good death,” and eugenics, an unacceptable practice that seeks to improve the human species by eliminating individuals who do not meet certain criteria, whether racial or other. This practice is illegal, inhuman, and immoral.)

What is the difference between medical assistance in dying and assisted suicide?

Two kinds of medical assistance in dying are permitted in Canada, outside of Quebec. A physician or nurse practitioner can directly administer a substance that causes the death of the person who has requested it (“medical assistance in dying”), or a physician or specialized nurse practitioner (SNP) can give or prescribe to a patient a substance that the patient can self-administer to cause their own death (“self-administered medical assistance in dying,” sometimes referred to as “assisted suicide”). NB: it is worth noting that the latter, “assisted suicide,” is a stigmatizing term that we generally avoid.

Self-administered MAID is illegal in Quebec, but it is legal in the rest of Canada.

End-of-life care in Quebec

Medical assistance in dying (MAID), end-of-life palliative care and continuous palliative sedation are three therapeutic options corresponding to end-of-life care in Quebec.

End-of-life palliative care is the care that can be provided when a person suffering from a disease no longer wants or responds to treatment, or when there is no curative treatment for the disease. Without hastening or delaying death, the aim of end-of-life palliative care is to achieve the best possible quality of life for people and their loved ones, and to offer them the necessary support. In some cases, end-of-life palliative care and other therapeutic means are unable to alleviate the patient’s suffering. In these circumstances, MAID or continuous palliative sedation may be options to consider, if this is the wish of the person concerned.

MAID is end-of-life care during which a person receives, at his or her request, medication with the aim of bringing about his or her death in order to relieve physical or psychological suffering.

Continuous palliative sedation is the administration of drugs or substances to a person at the end of life, with the aim of relieving suffering by rendering the person unconscious, continuously, until death.

MAID, end-of-life palliative care and continuous palliative sedation are in no way opposed to each other; on the contrary, they are three therapeutic options for end-of-life care offered in Quebec.