OTTAWA - Just over 800 Canadians received medical help to end their lives during the first six months of a federal law that restricts medical assistance in dying to individuals who are already near death.

An interim report by the federal government shows there were 803 medically assisted deaths between last June 17, when the law was enacted, and the end of December.

An additional 167 assisted deaths occurred prior to last June in Quebec, which adopted its own law on medically assisted dying in December 2015.

The report says only a tiny fraction -- 0.4 per cent -- of the assisted deaths involved individuals who self-administered a lethal drug; the vast majority sought the aid of a medical professional.

Roughly an equal number of men and women, with an average age of about 72, took advantage of the new law, which allows assisted dying only for individuals in an advanced state of irreversible decline from an incurable condition and for whom natural death is "reasonably foreseeable."

The report does not specify how many requests for assisted death were rejected.