Objective: To determine the level of palliative care involvement before and after medical assistance in dying (MAID) requests, and to compare the differences between those who completed MAID and those who requested but did not complete MAID.
Design: Retrospective chart review.
Setting: The Ottawa Hospital (TOH) in Ontario.
Participants: Ninety-seven patients who requested MAID at TOH between February 6, 2016, and June 30, 2017.
Main outcome measures: Completion of MAID.
Results: Eighty-four patients were included in the study. Fifty patients (59.5%) completed MAID. The most common reasons for not completing MAID were death before completion of the required assessments (47.0%), ineligibility (26.5%), and loss of capacity (14.7%). The most common diagnoses were cancer (72.6%) and neurologic disease (11.9%). The most frequent reasons for requesting MAID were physical suffering (77.4%), loss of autonomy (36.9%), and poor quality of life (27.4%). Patients who completed MAID in this study were more likely to report physical suffering as the reason for their request than those who did not complete MAID (84.0% vs 67.6%; P = .08), yet only 23.8% of all patients requesting MAID had an Edmonton Symptom Assessment Scale completed. Before MAID request, 27.4% of patients had a community palliative care physician and 59.5% had palliative care involvement in any setting. The TOH palliative care team was involved in 46.4% of patients who requested MAID.
Conclusion: There is still inadequate provision of palliative care for those requesting MAID. Guidelines, legislation, and guidance are needed to help physicians ensure patients are aware of and understand the benefits of palliative care in end-of-life decisions. However, the involvement of palliative care with patients who completed MAID was similar to those who did not complete MAID. Multicentre studies are needed to further explore the MAID process and clarify the role of palliative care in that process.
Background: In June 2016, when the Parliament of Canada passed Bill C-14, the country joined the small number of jurisdictions that have legalized medical assistance in dying (maid). Since legalization, nearly 7000 Canadians have received maid, most of whom (65%) had an underlying diagnosis of cancer. Although Bill C-14 specifies the need for government oversight and monitoring of maid, the government-collected data to date have tracked patient characteristics, rather than clinician encounters and beliefs. We aimed to understand the views of Canadian oncologists 2 years after the legalization of maid.
Methods: We developed and administered an online survey to medical and radiation oncologists to understand their exposure to maid, self-perceived knowledge, willingness to participate, and perception of the role of oncologists in introducing maid as an end-of-life care option. We used complete sampling through the Canadian Association of Medical Oncologists and the Canadian Association of Radiation Oncology membership e-mail lists. The survey was sent to 691 physicians: 366 radiation oncologists and 325 medical oncologists. Data were collected during March-June 2018. Results are presented using descriptive statistics and univariate or multivariate analysis.
Results: The survey attracted 224 responses (response rate: 32.4%). Of the responding oncologists, 70% have been approached by patients requesting maid. Oncologists were of mixed confidence in their knowledge of the eligibility criteria. Oncologists were most willing to engage in maid with an assessment for eligibility, and yet most refer to specialized teams for assessments. In terms of introducing maid as an end-of-life option, slightly more than half the responding physicians (52.8%) would initiate a conversation about maid with a patient under certain circumstances, most commonly the absence of viable therapeutic options, coupled with unmanageable patient distress.
Conclusions: In this first national survey of Canadian oncologists about maid, we found that most respondents encounter patient requests for maid, are confident in their knowledge about eligibility, and are willing to act as assessors of eligibility. Many oncologists believe that, under some circumstances, it is appropriate to present maid as a therapeutic option at the end of life. That finding warrants further deliberation by national or regional bodies for the development of consensus guidelines to ensure equitable access to maid for patients who wish to pursue it.
The Australian state of Victoria legalised voluntary assisted dying (VAD) in June 2019. Like most jurisdictions with legalised VAD, the Victorian law constructs physicians as the only legal providers of VAD. Physicians with conscientious objection to VAD are not compelled to participate in the practice, requiring colleagues who are willing to participate to transact the process for eligible applicants. Physicians who provide VAD because of their active, moral and purposeful support for the law are known as conscientious participants. Conscientious participation has received scant attention in the bioethics literature. Patient access to VAD is contingent on the development of a sufficient corpus of conscientious participants in permissive jurisdictions. This article reports the findings of a small empirical study into how some Victorian physicians with no in-principle opposition towards the legalisation of VAD, are ethically orientating themselves towards the law, in the first 8 months of the law's operation. It finds that in-principle-supportive physicians employ bioethical principles to justify their position but struggle to reconcile that approach with the broader medical profession's opposition. This study is part of the first tranche of empirical research emerging from Australia since the legalisation of VAD in that country for the first time in over 20 years.
Medical aid in dying (MAID) is a practice in which a physician provides a competent adult with a terminal illness with a prescription for a lethal dose of a drug at the request of the patient, which the patient intends to use to end his or her life. MAID currently is legal in nine states and the District of Columbia. The most common concerns leading to requests for MAID include loss of autonomy, loss of ability to participate in activities that make life enjoyable, and loss of dignity. MAID remains controversial. Physicians can choose not to participate in MAID and many are prohibited from participating by their employers. Family physicians should have the knowledge and skills to respond to inquiries about MAID in a compassionate, patient-centered manner. Clinicians should be familiar with the legal status of MAID in the state in which they practice, understand eligibility requirements for participation, have access to resources to support patients and clinicians, and be able to apply various communication strategies to MAID discussions. A thoughtful exploration of what led the patient to inquire about MAID will allow the physician to better understand and respond to patient concerns regarding the final months of life.
I miss my mom, who died last year, and I want to tell the happy story of her death, or perhaps the story of her happy death through her choosing and accomplishing medical aid in dying. My mom was 85 when she died, had atypical presentation of lymphoma which took time to diagnose, and went through 3 painful months of surgery, radiation, and a single horrific round of chemotherapy. She suffered a lot. When she was in the hospital recovering from chemo, I witnessed 3 amazing doctors being true to core values of their profession. But the most profound aspect and gift of the events surrounding her death was the way in which making an informed choice gave my mom back her presence—allowing her both peace and power in the end of her life.
Amid the ongoing ethical and societal debate, there has been a growing global movement toward the legalization of medical assistance in dying (MAID). In patients with terminal cancer and comorbid depression, the contributing role of depression in the decision-making processs to pursue MAID can be challenging to determine.
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Background: An analysis of the position statements of secular US medical and surgical professional societies on physician-assisted suicide (PAS) and euthanasia have not been published recently. Available statements were evaluated for position, content, and sentiment.
Methods: In order to create a comprehensive list of secular medical and surgical societies, the results of a systematic search using Google were cross-referenced with a list of societies that have a seat on the American Medical Association House of Delegates. Societies with position statements were identified. These statements were divided into 5 categories: opposed to PAS and/or euthanasia, studied neutrality, supportive, acknowledgement without statement, and no statement. Linguistic analysis was performed using RapidMinder in order to determine word frequency and sentiment respective to individual statements. To ensure accuracy, only statements with word counts > 100 were analyzed. A 2-tailed independent t test was used to test for variance among sentiment scores of opposing and studied neutrality statements.
Results: Of 150 societies, only 12 (8%) have position statements on PAS and euthanasia: 11 for PAS (5 opposing and 4 studied neutrality) and 9 for euthanasia (6 opposing and 2 studied neutrality). Although the most popular words used in opposing and studied neutrality statements are similar, notable exceptions exist (suicide, medicine, and treatment appear frequently in opposing statements, but not in studied neutrality statements, whereas psychologists, law, and individuals appear frequently in studied neutrality statements, but not in opposing statements). Sentiment scores for opposing and studied neutrality statements do not differ (mean, 0.094 vs. 0.104; P = 0.90).
Conclusions: Few US medical and surgical societies have position statements on PAS and euthanasia. Among them, opposing and studied neutrality statements share similar linguistic sentiment. Opposing and studied neutrality statements have clear differences, but share recommendations. Both opposing and studied neutrality statements cite potential risks of PAS legalization and suggest that good palliative care might diminish a patient’s desire for PAS.
BACKGROUND: Medical Assistance in Dying comprises interventions that can be provided by medical practitioners to cause death of a person at their request if they meet predefined criteria. In June 2016, Medical Assistance in Dying became legal in Canada, sparking intense debate in the palliative care community.
AIM: This study aims to explore the experience of frontline palliative care providers about the impact of Medical Assistance in Dying on palliative care practice.
DESIGN: Qualitative descriptive design using semi-structured interviews and thematic analysis.
SETTINGS/PARTICIPANTS: We interviewed palliative care physicians and nurses who practiced in settings where patients could access Medical Assistance in Dying for at least 6 months before and after its legalization. Purposeful sampling was used to recruit participants with diverse personal views and experiences with assisted death. Conceptual saturation was achieved after interviewing 23 palliative care providers (13 physicians and 10 nurses) in Southern Ontario.
RESULTS: Themes identified included a new dying experience with assisted death; challenges with symptom control; challenges with communication; impact on palliative care providers personally and on their relationships with patients; and consumption of palliative care resources to support assisted death.
CONCLUSION: Medical Assistance in Dying has had a profound impact on palliative care providers and their practice. Communication training with access to resources for ethical decision-making and a review of legislation may help address new challenges. Further research is needed to understand palliative care provider distress around Medical Assistance in Dying, and additional resources are necessary to support palliative care delivery.
La question du sens de la vie se pose autant au jeune qu’à l’ancien, dès lors qu’il expérimente sa finitude par une quelconque expérience de mort. Pour explorer la question avec un certain recul, étudions la mort et le suicide à différentes échelles. Si nous devions comparer le suicide à une des morts cellulaires, peut-être que nous le comparerions à l’apoptose en tant qu’elle est réalisée par la cellule elle-même. À l’échelle animale, la survie suit la loi du plus fort ou du plus intelligent. À l’échelle anthropologique, les civilisations survivent dans l’illusion de leur immortalité. Il est certain que le suicide est un acte des plus intimes et peut, à cet égard, être considéré comme un acte de liberté puisqu’il soulage la perception du corps de toute loi physique, la perception étant abolie par le décès. La fascination pour le suicide s’appuie sur une exploration intellectuelle, une recherche de réponse absolue en opposition à tout relativisme, qui paradoxalement va prendre corps dans l’anéantissement. En période de pandémie et de confinement, l’humanité fait l’expérience de sa finitude. Le confinement a réinstallé un sentiment de solitude dans une société qui vit d’une hypercommunication permanente. Dans ce texte, l’auteur démontre que le suicide doit être évité parce qu’il est un non-sens autant pour l’individu que pour la collectivité. Alors, vivre le handicap tout autant que la vieillesse devrait être plus valorisé, et des politiques de santé publique contre les causes menant au suicide devraient devenir des priorités de l’État. Finalement, loin d’une pathologisation du suicide, la question de reconnaître juridiquement le droit au suicide (non assisté) pour les personnes le réussissant doit être posée.
BACKGROUND: End-of-life caregiving frequently is managed by friends and family. Studies on hastened death, including aid in dying or assisted suicide, indicate friends and family also play essential roles before, during, and after death. No studies have compared the experiences of caregivers in hastened and non-hastened death. The study aim is to compare end-of-life and hastened death caregiving experience using Hudson's modified stress-coping model for palliative caregiving.
METHOD: Narrative synthesis of qualitative studies for caregivers at end of life and in hastened death, with 9946 end-of life and 1414 hastened death qualitative, peer-reviewed research articles extracted from MEDLINE, CINAHL, Web of Science, and PsycINFO, published between January 1998 and April 2020.
RESULTS: Forty-two end-of-life caregiving and 12 hastened death caregiving articles met inclusion criteria. In both end-of-life and hastened death contexts, caregivers are motivated to ease patient suffering and may put their own needs or feelings aside to focus on that priority. Hastened death caregivers' expectation of impending death and the short duration of caregiving may result in less caregiver burden. Acceptance of the patient's condition, social support, and support from healthcare professionals all appear to improve caregiver experience. However, data on hastened death are limited.
CONCLUSION: Caregivers in both groups sought closeness with the patient and reported satisfaction at having done their best to care for the patient in a critical time. Awareness of anticipated death and support from healthcare professionals appear to reduce caregiver stress. The modified stress-coping framework is an effective lens for interpreting caregivers' experiences at end of life and in the context of hastened death.
Background: End-of-life decisions are highly complex socio-normative and ethical phenomena. The goal of this study was to provide an assessment of public opinions in Israel concerning aspects of end-of-life decisions.
Methods: An online cross sectional study was performed in February 2020. The primary tool including items pertaining to death assistance and truth telling to patients. A sample of 515 participants representative of the adult Israeli population was obtained.
Results: The majority of participants (71%) supports telling the entire truth to patients even in harsh conditions. Support for truth telling decreases with affiliation to religion, with as little as 40% support among ultra-orthodox. People with vocational education are the least supportive of truth telling. Concerning doctor assisted death, almost half (49%) of the sample were supportive. Opposition is positively associated with religiosity, with 90% of ultra-orthodox and 58% of religious participants opposing doctor-assisted death, compared to only 18% among seculars. Non-Jews were 3.35 times (95%CI: 1.90, 5.91) more likely to oppose doctor assisted death than Jews (p < .0001). An Interrelationship analysis crossing between attitudes revealed that the largest group (39%) was comprised of participants who support both (“autonomists”).
Conclusions: Israelis are overwhelmingly supportive of truth telling to patients. In contrast, Israeli public opinions on doctor assisted death are divided. For both attitudes, religiousness plays a crucial role as a catalyst for conservatism and opposition to change. Almost a half of the public is also supportive of an autonomist approach that would allow patients to decide on ending their own lives.
A Nova Scotia man is free to seek a medically assisted death in the next few days after the province’s Court of Appeal refused to extend a temporary injunction granted to his wife, who claimed that he was exaggerating his illness and did not qualify.
The case, which has led the anonymous couple to separate after a marriage of nearly 50 years, comes as Canada’s assisted dying law is in a state of flux. The country’s Supreme Court has declared the current law overly restrictive in that it requires two doctors to certify that the patient faces a “reasonably foreseeable” death from a condition, as well as unbearable suffering.
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Since the 2015 Canadian legalization of medical assistance in dying (MAiD), many Canadian music therapists have become involved in the care of those requesting this procedure. This qualitative study, the first of its kind, examines the experience of music therapy within MAiD, exploring lived experience from three perspectives: the patient, their primary caregiver, and the music therapist/researcher. Overall thematic findings of a hermeneutic phenomenological analysis of ten MAiD cases demonstrate therapeutically beneficial outcomes in terms of quality of life, symptom management, and life review. Further research is merited to continue an exploration of the role of music therapy in the context of assisted dying.
Assisted dying practices, which include euthanasia and physician-assisted suicide (PAS), have expanded significantly around the world over the past 20 years. Euthanasia refers to the act of intentionally ending the life of a patient by a health care practitioner through medical means at that patient's explicit request while PAS involves the provision or prescribing of drugs by a health care practitioner for a patient to end their own life. The growing global aging population accompanied by higher levels of chronic disease and protracted illnesses have sharpened the focus on end of life issues and societal and legislative debates continue to address related moral and ethical complexities. Assisted dying practices are now legal in 18 jurisdictions, increasing the number of people with access to euthanasia and/or physician-assisted suicide (PAS) to over 200 million. New legislation is being crafted or considered in Portugal, Spain and 16 US states. Germany has recently overturned a ban on assisted dying services and New Zealand will put legalization of euthanasia to a vote in 2020. Assisted dying practice characteristics differ and there is also considerable variation in the terminology and labels used for assisted dying, which can add to the confusion and controversy around the practices. Frequency of use also varies greatly by jurisdiction, though a consistent increase has been seen in European countries including Belgium, the Netherlands and Switzerland as well as some jurisdictions with long-standing physician assisted dying laws, such as Oregon and Washington. All assisted dying legislation includes substantive and procedural requirements, such as minimum age, waiting period, health condition, physician consultation and reporting procedure, however, some are extensive and detailed while others are more limited. As access to assisted dying expands in new and existing jurisdictions, research must also expand to diligently examine the impact on patients, specifically among vulnerable populations, as well as on health care practitioners, health care systems and communities. This article will provide a thorough investigation, or 'status quaestionis' of the terminology, evolution and current legislative picture of assisted dying practices around the globe and contribute to the ongoing ethical, regulatory and practice debate, which have become increasingly important considerations for medical practice, end-of-life care and public health.
Background: Options available to Canadians at the end of life increased with the legalization of medical assistance in dying (MAiD). Bill C-14 modified the Canadian Criminal Code allowing individuals who meet very specific criteria to receive a medical intervention to hasten their death. June 2019 marked 3 years since the legislation has changed and while met with favour from most Canadians who believe it will provide enhanced options for quality of life at the end of life, there remains much debate over both its moral implications and practical components. Little is known regarding the Canadian healthcare provider experience with MAiD, in particular in rural and remote parts of the country such as northwestern Ontario.
Objectives: The purpose of this study was to explore physicians' experiences in Northwestern Ontario with MAiD. The geographic location of this study is of particular significance as physicians in rural and remote parts of Canada face unique challenges in the provision of high-quality palliative and end-of-life services. This qualitative research focused on developing a better understanding of physicians' perceptions and practices with MAiD, in particular regarding access, decision-making, provision of service and role clarity.
Methods: The researchers employed an exploratory qualitative research approach, using 1 semi-structured focus group and 18 semi-structured interviews comprising 9 set of questions. Data were collected through audio-taped semi-structured interviews, in person and by telephone.
Findings: Four distinct but interconnected themes emerged from thematic analysis of the transcripts of the focus group and interviews: physician perception of patient awareness, appreciation and understanding of MAiD; challenges providing true choice at end of life; burgeoning relationships between palliative care and MAiD; and physician recommendations.
Conclusion: The results of this study provide a snapshot of the Northwestern physician experiences with MAiD and contribute to the growing body of work exploring these issues on a national scale. MAiD is highlighted as both a rewarding and challenging experience for physicians in Northwestern Ontario in this study.
Adoption of assisted dying has rapidly grown, but many groups caution that these policies can cause suicide contagions. If those urging caution are correct, jurisdictions with these policies will experience increased suicides. This study aimed to determine the changes in population suicide rates in Belgium before and after its 2002 policy using the synthetic control method (SCM) and generalized synthetic control method (GSCM). As comparisons we used additional European Union members that have not adopted these policies. GSCM showed an average annual suicide rate increase of 0.73 per 100,000 population (95% CI - 5.7 to 7.2; p = 0.80). Placebo testing based on the SCM analysis showed equal outcomes for Belgium and the comparisons. This study failed to show evidence of association between implementation of legislation legitimizing assisted dying and population suicide rates. The threat of suicide contagion has influenced policy discussions in the past, but this study suggests that there is presently no indication for policy-makers to view suicide contagions as a concerning side effect of assisted dying legislation.
OBJECTIVE: The implementation of medical aid-in-dying (MAID) poses new challenges for clinical communication and counseling. Among these, health care providers must consider whether to initiate a discussion of MAID with eligible patients who do not directly ask about it. Norms and policies concerning this issue vary tremendously across jurisdictions where MAID is legally authorized, reflecting divergent assumptions about patients' rights to information about end-of-life options and the purpose and potential harms of clinical disclosure.
METHOD: This discussion forum essay draws on informed consent doctrine to analyze two policies concerning clinical communication about MAID: the legal prohibition against provider-initiated discussions of MAID in Victoria, Australia, and the Canadian Association of MAID Assessors and Providers (CAMAP) position that providers have an ethical and professional responsibility to inform eligible patients about MAID.
CONCLUSIONS: Informed consent requires that clinicians strike a balance between minimizing potential harms to patients caused by initiating discussions of MAID and the imperative to inform and counsel patients about all of their legally available medical options.
PRACTICE IMPLICATIONS: Clinicians should be aware of both the importance of communication as a tool to inform patients and the potential for clinical language to cause harm to or to unduly influence patients.
The purpose of this article is to report some Victorian doctors' general perspectives and knowledge of the new Voluntary Assisted Dying Act 2017 (Vic) (VAD Act). Under the VAD Act, doctors are constructed as the only legal providers of VAD in Victoria. Doctors who are unwilling to participate in VAD therefore constitute a barrier to patient access. This article reports the findings of a small empirical study into how some Victorian doctors with no in-principle objection towards the legalisation of VAD, are orientating themselves towards the law. It also explores participants' understanding of the specific role required of doctors under the law. It finds that participants equate their support for the Act with biomedical ethical principles and generally hold a level of knowledge of the law which is not comprehensive but improves with greater exposure to VAD applications. This study serves as a temperature check of this key stakeholder group's perspectives on the VAD Act in the first eight months of its operation.