Medical Assistance in Dying: Guidance for Members of the OCSWSSW

In February 2015, the Supreme Court of Canada found that the prohibition against physician-assisted dying in the Criminal Code of Canada was unconstitutional. In response to the Supreme Court’s decision, Parliament passed legislation on medical assistance in dying (“MAID”) on June 17, 2016. This means that doctors and nurse practitioners in Canada can now provide medical assistance in dying, where this is done in accordance with the federal legislation as well as any applicable provincial laws, rules or standards.

This historic and controversial event has evoked strong and opposing views, ranging from those who welcome the new law, seeing it as a compassionate means to allow individuals to die with dignity, to those who have strong adverse feelings about assisting a person to die, usually rooted in moral and/or religious beliefs. Regardless of one’s personal feelings, those working in the health care field are now confronted with carrying out this new law. Although the law does not compel an individual to provide or assist in providing medical assistance in dying, social workers and social service workers must nevertheless be mindful of their professional obligations.

Not surprisingly, the new law has aroused uncertainty and anxiety for many College members who have questions such as:

  • What role would I play with MAID?
  • What if I don’t want to be involved?
  • If I assist in providing MAID, am I vulnerable to legal action?

This paper will guide College members in understanding their professional obligations in relation to MAID.

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