The Bulkley Valley Research Centre hosted an information seminar on medical assistance in dying last week.
About 25 people showed up at the Old Church to hear a doctor explain the controversial topic on Bill C-14 and assisted dying in Canada.
The practice of assisted dying, which is restricted to terminally ill and mentally competent adults, became legal last year in Canada. However, there are many conditions and safeguards put in place before a physician or nurse practitioner can assist a patient who wishes to voluntarily and intentionally end his or her life by providing a lethal dose of medicine.
Daphne Hart, the Northern Heath Medical Assistance in Dying physician lead thinks the new practice has been rolled out well and been done with respect and compassion.
In Northern Health, 28 people have used the service since it became legal in July 2016. The average age of the person was 70 and most people had terminal cancer. More than half of the people chose to end their lives in their homes.
In total within the Northern Health region, there have been 54 requests. Hart said sometimes they die before they can go through with it, or they lose capacity, are not eligible, change their minds or are just planning ahead.
The audience at the Old Church had many questions about who is eligible. Hart explained that patients must be at least 18 years of age, be capable of making their decisions, clearly consent to the ending of life without coercion, have an irremediable medical condition and incurable illness, be in advanced state of irreversible decline in capacity, be suffering intolerably with no available treatments or relief, and consider the patient’s natural death to be in the reasonably foreseeable future.
Hart also explained there are several steps in the process to receive medical assistance in dying. One audience member also asked Hart if she thinks people will commit suicide instead of going through all the necessary steps. She answered that while it is time consuming for the practitioners, it works well for the patients.
She also showed a short emotional video of physicians describing their first time providing medical assistance in dying.
That video can be found at dyingwithdignity.ca.