Canadians have the legal right to ask for assisted suicide, but CTV News has learned fewer than half of Nova Scotians who requested it in the last six months were given medical assistance to die.

Seventy-three requests have been made over the past six months, with only 28 of those receiving the procedure.

The average age of those who received assistance was 70. Slightly more of them were male, and the most common diagnosis was cancer.

Forty-five requests were not approved. The Nova Scotia Health Authority cites a variety of reasons, including requests that were withdrawn, mental capacity to move forward, and some died before getting assistance.

Sheila Sperry, whose husband died of ALS six years ago, says she’s not surprised at the number of requests.

“That certainly makes sense in a province with an aging demographics that we have,” Sperry says. “I am surprised at the number who actually received it.”

Sperry has been advocate for the right to die ever since her husband was diagnosed.

“We'd like to know how many of each, because if some of them lost capacity, why did they lose capacity? What was wrong with the timeframe that meant that they lost capacity?” Sperry says. 

Eric MacDonald’s wife, who was diagnosed with MS when she was just 30, decided to pursue assisted suicide in Switzerland.

“She had it mapped on the calendar. D-Day, she said,” MacDonald says. “When we left the Canadian airspace, just beyond Newfoundland, she suddenly relaxed. She said, ‘I'm free now.’ So Canada to her was an unsafe place because she couldn't have assistance to die.”

Dr. Tim Holland is a medical assistance in dying provider. He says in some cases there has been a lack of access to the service.

“If you're in Halifax, there's a very good chance that you'll be able to find a provider. Unfortunately if you live in Yarmouth or Cape Breton, you might be in a situation where a provider would have to travel from Halifax to come and see you for the procedure,” Dr. Holland says. 

He says there are about 12 doctors that are willing to travel and provide the service, but those doctors are not fully paid for the time it takes.

With files from CTV Atlantic’s Laura Brown.