Educating Canadian family medicine residents about medical assistance in dying

Susan E. MacDonald MD MHSc FCFP 1, Sarah LeBlanc MD MSc CCFP 2,

1 Associate Professor, Dept of Family Medicine, Queen’s Department of Family Medicine, Queen’s University, Kingston, Ontario, Canada.  K7L 5E9
2 Resident, Dept of Family Medicine, Queen’s University (in practice, Picton, Ontario, Canada as of July 1, 2016)

Medical assistance in dying – both assisted suicide and euthanasia – ceased to be illegal in Canada on June 6, 2016 as directed by the Supreme Court of Canada.  Laws to legalize the practice, however, were not in place in time to meet this court-appointed deadline.   This vacuum of regulation created challenges for physicians in Canada, who were faced with requests for assistance in dying, temporarily without top-level guidance. Even when the law is passed (anticipated, but not yet accomplished at time of this submission) there will continue to be uncertainties as to access and process as well as to regulations imposed by the various regional physicians’ governing and regulatory bodies.

This lag in legislation and regulation was transmitted to those providing education for Canadian residents and medical students.  At present, medical schools and residency programs face the upcoming academic year, knowing that medical assistance in dying (“MAID” as it has come to be known) will be legalized in general, but not knowing the specifics that will allow for appropriate design of a curriculum.

The provision of, and the education about, MAID will continue to evolve over the course of 2016 and 2017.  This presentation will outline the journey taken by members of the Queen’s Department of Family Medicine in Kingston, Canada to design and implement a curriculum in medical assistance in dying.  This process will include an initial environmental survey and needs assessment, curriculum development, delivery of the teaching materials, and evaluation of the curriculum.  An update as to this undertaking, as of the time of the conference, will be presented.  Also addressed will be the challenges inherent in designing a curriculum sensitive to the needs of the participating learners and faculty, each of whom might individually fall anywhere on the wide breadth of spectrum of opinion regarding MAID.


Dr Susan MacDonald is a faculty member in the Department of Family Medicine, Queen’s University, Canada.  Susan teaches and is clinical preceptor to family medicine residents in the Queen’s Family Medicine Residency Program , teaches ethics to the  Undergraduate medical students and is  Academic Advisor in the Office of Student Affairs, Queen’s School of Medicine.  Susan’s first 20 years in practice focused on maternal health and intrapartum care.  In 2006 she completed a MHSc, Bioethics, and changed her academic and teaching focus.  She is a past Chair of the Ethics Committee of the College of Family Physicians of Canada.

About the Association

The Australasian Association of Bioethics and Health Law (AABHL) was formed in 2009.

It encourages open discussion and debate on a range of bioethical issues, providing a place where people can ask difficult questions about ideas and practices associated with health and illness, biomedical research and human values.

The AABHL seeks to foster a distinctive Australasian voice in bioethics, and provide opportunities for international engagement through its membership, journal and conferences.

Members come from all the contributing humanities, social science and science disciplines that make up contemporary bioethics.

Many members have cross-disciplinary interests and all seek to broaden the dialogues in which all members of the wider community ultimately have an interest.

The AABHL is a supportive, creative and challenging community that provides a rich source of continuing academic refreshment and renewal.

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