Choosing a Gentle Death
For over thirty years, we’ve been providing information and support to competent adults who are grievously ill and want to end their lives peacefully. We do not encourage anyone to end their life, do not provide the means to do so, and do not actively assist in a person’s death.
Is it legal for me to end my own life?
In Canada, it has been legal to end your own life since 1972. However, the lack of medically-assisted dying can make it difficult for individuals to achieve a peaceful death.
How can Dying With Dignity help?
Provided you are a member and meet our eligibility criteria, Dying With Dignity can provide you with information and emotional support.
Once we have determined your eligibility, our first step is to ensure you are aware of all your end-of-life options.
In a way, we think of ourselves as a suicide prevention service. Many people contact us to explore ending their lives; once we inform them of all their options, they often realize that hastening their death is not the best route.
If you are eligible for our support and you still wish to hasten your death after learning of all of your choices, we make sure you have the information to do so peacefully and effectively. If you wish, we can also be with you at your bedside when you die.
What are your criteria for eligibility?
To be eligible for our full support, you must be a mentally-competent adult with a medically-diagnosed terminal or incurable progressive physical illness, and your suffering must be unbearable to you.
We require written documentation of your diagnosis from your doctor as part of our admission process.
Members who do not clearly meet the eligibility criteria for admission to the full Client Support Program may still be eligible for support for hastening through voluntary stopping of eating and drinking (VSED).
Such support is available for individuals who otherwise meet our criteria but where there is some question of capacity (such as individuals experiencing symptoms of dementia).
For more information on Voluntary Stopping of Eating and Drinking download a detailed fact sheet on this subject, or please see our information on your rights and choices as a patient to help you understand all your end-of-life options.
What if this is an emergency?
We are not an emergency service. If this is an emergency, please proceed to your nearest emergency department or call for an ambulance.
We will try to respond within two business days to any requests. It generally takes at least six weeks, and frequently longer, for an individual to complete all requirements to be accepted as a full client of DWD.
How much do the services of the Client Support Program cost?
We do not charge for our Client Support Program. We want our services to be available to everyone, regardless of their financial situation. Most members and families who use the program choose to make a charitable donation, either directly or from their estate, to cover the costs of the program and to ensure we’ll be here to help others in the future.
We do require that any potential client joins DWD. However, you can join as a compassionate (pay-what-you-can) member if you have financial concerns.
My mother is showing signs of Alzheimer's Disease. Can she become a client?
We only support adults who are mentally competent. Individuals with Alzheimer's Disease or other dementia-related disorders generally lose their competence in stages, and can retain competence in some areas after they have lost it in others. For example, many people in the early stages of Alzheimer's retain their competence to make personal health decisions even if they have lost their competence in other areas, such as financial decision-making.
We require that an individual with a dementia-related diagnosis obtain a capacity assessment before admission to the program. Generally, we will support people in the early stages of dementia-related disorders only through voluntary stopping of eating and drinking (VSED). This restriction ensures we support only those who are competent at the time of their hastening.
That said, you still have options. If your mother wouldn't have wanted to be kept alive in this condition, you can certainly refuse any medical treatment (other than comfort care) on her behalf. For example, if she developed an infection you could refuse any antibiotics. Similarly, you could refuse a flu shot or other preventative treatment that might prolong her life.
Where can I get more information?
Please note that our Client Support Program is a member-only program, you must join Dying With Dignity Canada to access our services. (We will never turn you away because of inability to pay - if finances are a concern, you can join as a compassionate member on a pay-what-you-can basis).