University Health Network reports on year of medically assisted dying

24/05/2017

Today, in the New England Journal of Medicine, the team from University Health Network in Toronto that developed the organization’s protocol for medical assistance in dying (MAiD) describes UHN’s approach and experience.  This comes a year after Canada decriminalized medically assisted dying throughout the country.

The article, Medical Assistance in Dying – Implementing a Hospital-Based Program in Canada, is available online (DOI: 10.1056/NEJMms1700606).

Author Dr. Madeline Li, a psychiatrist in the Department of Supportive Care, UHN, writes that in Canada the legal responsibility to implement MAiD required creating an institutional framework for patient assessment and provision of service, as well as a plan for educating staff about engaging in conversations with patients. (Follow this link to read more on UHN’s MAiD webpage.) 

At UHN, a three-team MAiD model was adopted comprising clinical, assessment and intervention teams. Death is by injection of intravenous drugs in the hospital. A multidisciplinary quality committee provides oversight, reports metrics annually to the medical advisory committee, and stewards data for use in quality assessment and research.

In the first year of reporting (March 8, 2016 to March 8, 2017), at UHN there were 74 MAiD inquiries, 74 per cent of which were for patients whose primary diagnosis was cancer. Twenty-nine proceeded to assessment; 25 were approved, and 19 received MAiD. 

Dr. Li writes: "Just prior to delivery of MAiD, all patients who reached this stage were evaluated by intervention-team physicians to determine whether they currently met criteria for informed consent for MAiD."

Amid the many checks and balances described in detail, Dr. Li concludes: "Just as advocacy from outside mainstream medicine brought palliative care 'from the margins to the centre', so has it brought MAiD into the mainstream of medicine. It is now clear that MAiD education must be included in undergraduate medical education curricula in Canada, and in the training for a variety of specialties  including general medicine, family medicine, oncology, neurology, respirology, palliative care, pharmacy, psychiatry, social work, spiritual care, and bioethics."  

About University Health Network
 
University Health Network includes Toronto General and Toronto Western Hospitals, Princess Margaret Cancer Centre, Toronto Rehabilitation Institute and the Michener Institute for Education at UHN. The scope of research and complexity of cases at University Health Network has made it a national and international source for discovery, education and patient care. It has the largest hospital-based research program in Canada, with major research in cardiology, transplantation, neurosciences, oncology, surgical innovation, infectious diseases, genomic medicine and rehabilitation medicine. University Health Network is a research hospital affiliated with the University of Toronto. www.uhn.ca

Media contact: Jane Finlayson, Public Affairs, 416-946-2846 or 647-628-4836, jane.finlayson@uhn.ca