Chapter 7: Preparing for a medically assisted death

Explaining Medical Assistance in Dying (MAID)

The expert says
Tara Noble MSW, RSW on explaining MAID to children(3:22)Video transcript
Tara Noble MSW, RSW on children accessing the Internet about MAID(3:22)Video transcript
Tara Noble MSW, RSW explains that parents aren't sure about what to expect with MAID(3:22)Video transcript
Tara Noble MSW, RSW on the importance of validating your child's feelings(3:22)Video transcript
Dr. Sandy Buchman MD, CCFP (PC), FCFP on helping children understand why someone would choose MAID(3:22)Video transcript
Tara Noble MSW, RSW explains how to distinguish MAID from murder or suicide(3:22)Video transcript

Why does he want to die sooner?

Does it hurt to die?

Will she be scared?

Will it be scary to watch?

What if it doesn't work right?    

There is no cure

The first step in talking with your child about a plan for a medically assisted death is to explain that the person has an illness or disability that cannot be cured and that their overall health means they won't get better.  

Older children may be concerned because they hope the person will get better. They may hold on to this hope even though they've been told it isn't possible. 

Children are sometimes comforted to know there are rules that ensure a medically assisted death is only provided in very specific circumstances.

Sometimes people with cancer can be cured. I wish it could be different, but your grandpa’s cancer is stronger than all of the treatments and he will never get better. The cancer is causing his body to die. He is suffering and feels so badly he wishes he could die sooner.   

What is medical assistance in dying?

The next step is to explain what it means.

When someone is suffering and has an illness that cannot be cured, (that will not go away) they can sometimes ask a doctor to help their body die. The doctor uses medication that stops the body from working. This is done in a way that isn’t painful.   

The choice

When a medically assisted death is considered, help your child to understand that the person’s medical condition will not get better and that they are suffering.  Emphasize that they wish they were healthy and not suffering and could enjoy more years of life with the child. The illness and their overall condition make this impossible. Explain the ways in which the person is suffering. This can include not being able to enjoy life, not being able to do the things they have always loved to do, and any physical suffering they may be experiencing. Although this may be hard for the child to see and hear, it may help them understand why the person is choosing an assisted death. Explain that no one can decide to have a medically assisted death except the person themselves. It is their choice, and no one can decide for them.

The rules

In Canada, a medically assisted death is only allowed if all of the following conditions are met. The person must: 

  • Be over 18.
  • Have a serious and incurable illness, disease or disability.
  • Be in an advanced state of decline that cannot be reversed.
  • Be suffering unbearably from the illness, disease, disability or state of decline.
  • Be aware of all other options, including palliative care.
  • Be assessed independently/separately by two medical doctors or nurse practitioners.
  • Be choosing this for themselves and not under pressure from anyone else.
  • Be mentally able to make this decision for themselves.

For more information on eligibility and processes for a medically assisted death in Canada, please see:

You will also find an activity workbook that has been created for young people who have someone in their life considering MAiD. 

Additional information on Medical Assistance in Dying can also be accessed through the Government of Canada