Organ donation in the context of medical assistance in dying (MAID): Ethical and legal issues facing Canada

Organ donation in the context of medical assistance in dying (MAID): Ethical and legal issues facing Canada


Sherri Yazdani, Daniel Z Buchman, Linda Wright and Jennifer Chandler

(2018) 11(2) McGill Journal of Law and Health 59-85



In June 2016, the Government of Canada enacted legislation to regulate the practice of medical assistance in dying (MAID) in response to the Supreme Court of Canada’s 2015 decision striking down the prohibition against assisted dying in particular circumstances. One issue that has not been addressed in depth in the Canadian debate is whether those accessing MAID would be eligible to donate organs and tissues, as well as the ethico-legal issues this may pose. This is a challenging question that brings together the controversial introduction of MAID with the ethically sensitive practice of organ donation. This paper analyzes the ethico-legal issues raised in four possible scenarios for donation to occur in the context of MAID: living donation of non-vital organs before MAID, extended living donation of vital organs in anticipation of MAID, posthumous donation following MAID, and MAID by removal of organs. Extended living donation of vital organs and MAID by removal of organs are unlikely to be accepted and, indeed, we recommend against them. However, these possibilities have been raised in the medical ethics literature and we address them as part of a full review of this topic. In conclusion, we provide recommendations to address the combination of organ donation and MAID within what we believe to be acceptable ethical parameters.


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About the Author:

Jennifer A. Chandler researches and writes about the legal and ethical aspects of biomedical science and technology, with focuses on mental health law and policy, neuroethics, organ donation and regenerative medicine. She is internationally recognized for her research and writing in the law and ethics of the brain sciences. She is an elected member of the Board of Directors of the International Neuroethics Society, and serves on international editorial boards in the field, including Clinical Neuroethics (part of the Cambridge Quarterly of Healthcare Ethics), the Springer Book Series Advances in Neuroethics, and the Palgrave-MacMillan Book Series Law, Neuroscience and Human Behavior. She is also a member of the international advisory boards for the Institut du Cerveau et de la Moelle Épinière (ICM) Neuroethics Network (Paris), and the Société française de psychologie juridique (Paris).


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