Health care providers’ ethical perspectives on waiver of final consent for Medical Assistance in Dying (MAiD): a qualitative study

Health care providers’ ethical perspectives on waiver of final consent for Medical Assistance in Dying (MAiD): a qualitative study
Research
Caroline Variath, Elizabeth Peter, Lisa Cranley, Dianne Godkin
BMC Medical Ethics, 30 January 2022; 23(8)
Open Access
Abstract
Background
With the enactment of Bill C-7 in Canada in March 2021, people who are eligible for medical assistance in dying (MAiD), whose death is reasonably foreseeable and are at risk of losing decision-making capacity, may enter into a written agreement with their healthcare provider to waive the final consent requirement at the time of provision. This study explored healthcare providers’ perspectives on honouring eligible patients’ request for MAiD in the absence of a contemporaneous consent following their loss of decision-making capacity.
Method
A critical qualitative methodology, using a feminist ethics theoretical lens with its focus on power and relationality, was used to examine how socio-political and environmental contexts influenced healthcare providers’ moral agency and perspectives. Semi-structured interviews were conducted with 30 healthcare providers (13 physicians, six nurse practitioners, nine nurses and two social workers) from across Canada who provide MAiD-related care.
Results
Themes identified include; (1) balancing personal values and professional responsibilities, (2) anticipating strengths and limitations of the proposed waiver of final consent amendment, (3) experiencing ethical influences on decisions to enter into written agreements with eligible patients, (4) recognizing barriers to the enactment of MAiD in the absence of a contemporaneous consent and (5) navigating the potential for increased risks and burden.
Discussion
To our knowledge, this is the first study in Canada to explore healthcare providers’ perspectives on waiving the final consent for MAiD using a written agreement. Most participants supported expanding eligible people’s access to MAiD following loss of capacity, as they believed it would improve the patients’ comfort and minimize suffering. However, the lack of patients’ input at the time of provision and related ethical and legal challenges may impact healthcare providers’ moral agency and reduce some patients’ access to MAiD. Providers indicated they would enter into written agreements to waive final consent for MAiD on a case-by-case basis. This study highlights the importance of organizational, legal and professional support, adequate resources, clear policies and guidelines for the safety and wellbeing of healthcare providers and to ensure equitable access to MAiD.

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