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 nurse practitioner 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.
In Quebec, only a doctor can administer medication and cannot, under any circumstances, delegate this act to another person, whether they are a resident or nurse.
Self-administered MAID is illegal in Quebec, but it is legal in the rest of Canada.
Medical assistance in dying and palliative care
Palliative care includes a range of healthcare services provided to persons with an illness that is no longer responding to treatment or to persons who wish to stop receiving treatment. Without hastening or delaying death, the goal of palliative care is to achieve the best possible quality of life for patients and their families and to provide them with the support they need.
In some cases, palliative care and other therapeutic means fail to alleviate the patient’s suffering. In these circumstances, medical assistance in dying may be an option if that is the person’s wish. MAID and palliative care are in no way opposites. Instead, MAID is of one of the healthcare options offered within the palliative care spectrum.