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Medical assistance in dying in hospice: A qualitative study


Objectives The modern hospice movement has historically opposed assisted dying. The 2016 legalisation of medical assistance in dying (MAID) in Canada has created a new reality for Canadian hospices. There have been few studies examining how the legalisation of MAID has affected Canadian hospices. Our objective was to identify the challenges and opportunities hospice workers think MAID brings to a hospice.

Methods This qualitative descriptive study included four focus groups and four semistructured interviews with Canadian hospice workers at two hospices, one which allowed MAID on site, and one which did not. Thematic analysis was used to understand and report these challenges and opportunities.

Results We constructed five themes. These themes detailed participants’ beliefs in the abilities of hospice care, and how they felt MAID challenged these abilities. Further, participants felt that MAID itself created challenging situations for patients and families, and that local policies and practices led to additional institutional challenges. Some participants also felt that allowing MAID in hospice provided opportunities for more extensive end-of-life options.

Conclusions The legalisation of MAID in Canada has created both challenges and opportunities for Canadian hospices. A balancing of these challenges and opportunities may provide a path for Canadian hospices to navigate their new reality. Increasing demand for MAID means that hospices are likely to continue to encounter requests for MAID, and should enact supports to ensure staff are able to manage these challenges and make best use of the opportunities.

  • ethics
  • hospice care

Data availability statement

Data are available on reasonable request. Reasonable requests for study data should be directed to the corresponding author, or to the Institutional Review Board at McGill University’s Faculty of Medicine (514-398-8302).

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