What is Euthanasia?
Euthanasia is the act of intentionally, knowingly and directly causing the death of a patient. If someone other than the person who dies performs the last act, euthanasia has occurred. Euthanasia is sometimes called aid-in-dying, mercy killing, or death with dignity.
What is Assisted Suicide?
Assisted suicide is the act of intentionally, knowingly and directly providing the means of death to another person so that the person can use that means to commit suicide. If the person who dies performs the last act, assisted suicide has occurred.
For example, if a doctor writes a prescription for an intentional overdose of drugs for a patient to use to commit suicide and if the patient who dies performs the last act (the act of swallowing), assisted suicide has taken place.
Assisted-suicide is sometimes called aid-in-dying, death with dignity, or physician-assisted death
Neither consent nor motive changes the reality that both assisted suicide and euthanasia involve killing another human being. Killing the patient should never be the treatment for suffering.
"There is an essential difference between causing one to die, which is euthanasia, helping one to die, which would be assisted suicide, and allowing natural death to occur, which I referred to as withholding or withdrawing treatment. Frequently, there is confusion regarding the third category, that is, allowing natural death to occur when death is inevitable, and there is no clinical or ethical reason to intervene. This is not euthanasia. It is both morally and ethically acceptable and it should continue to be legally acceptable."
Dr. Paul V. Adams of Manitoba Physicians for Life, Witness to the Special Senate Committee, 1995
An advance directive is a document by which a person makes provisions for health care decisions in the event that, in the future, he/she becomes unable to make those decisions. There are two main types of advance directive - the "Living Will" and the "Durable Power of Attorney for Health Care." There are also combination advance directives which are hybrid documents that combine elements of the Living Will with those of the Durable Power of Attorney. To be valid, an advance directive must comply with the law of the province in which it was signed.
A Living Will is the oldest type of health care advance directive. It is a signed, witnessed (or notarized) document. Most Living Wills instruct an attending physician to withhold or withdraw medical interventions from its signer if he/she is in a terminal or irreversible condition and is unable to make decisions about medical treatment.
Since an attending physician who may be unfamiliar with the signer's wishes and values has the power and authority to carry out the signer's directive, certain terms contained in the document may be interpreted by the physician in a manner that was not intended by the signer. Family members and others who are familiar with the signer's values and wishes have no legal standing to interpret the meaning of the Living Will.
A Living Will may also be called a "Directive," "Declaration," "Individual Health Care Instruction," etc.
What is the law in Canada concerning euthanasia and assisted suicide?
Euthanasia and Assisted Suicide were legalized in Canada in June of 2016 following a Supreme Court decision the previous year. Learn more about euthanasia in Canada.