by Madeline Li MD PhD, Lead of Psychosocial Oncology, Princess Margaret Cancer Centre and Associate Professor of Psychiatry, University of Toronto, and Gary Rodin MD, Head of the Department of Supportive Care at Princess Margaret Cancer Centre and Professor of Psychiatry at the University of Toronto
“Personalized medicine” has become the new frontier in medical care, focused on ways to individualize treatment in order to maximize patient outcomes. At the University Health Network (UHN), this term ranges from individually tailored biological therapies to psychotherapeutic interventions. However, it could not have been anticipated that personalized medicine would come to include Medical Assistance in Dying (MAiD).
The movement to legalize assisted dying in Canada was largely propelled by changes in societal attitudes and demands, rather than by advice from health care providers or health care institutions. In response to this legislation, UHN developed a comprehensive framework for the delivery of MAiD, outlined in the May 25, 2017 issue of the New England Journal of Medicine. The aim of this framework was to ensure access to MAiD, to protect vulnerable patients from its unwarranted application, to support staff engaged directly or indirectly in this new clinical practice and in conversations about it, and to protect their right to conscientious objection.