After an 18-year long struggle with Multiple Sclerosis, Calgary's Donna Delorme ended her life Wednesday, Sept. 23, 2015, a friend has confirmed. She was a beautiful writer and a brave advocate, and she shared her story — in the news and on her blog — so that other Canadians, those who found themselves in her position, might be afforded more humane choices at end of life than she was.
The following is a testimony she submitted for our blog just five days before she died. In it, she describes with stunning clarity how delaying the implementation of new assisted dying laws is harming patients facing the prospect of a terrible death. We are grateful for her words.
Donna with her cat Pita in 2006.
The Supreme Court of Canada gave the government until February 6, 2016 to come up with new legislation for assisted dying. This deadline is coming closer, and so far, little has been done. Some politicians have suggested they may ask for a stay of this decision, which will only result in further suffering for many people, myself included.
I am severely disabled and bedridden from Multiple Sclerosis and other injuries over the years. I would like to end my life as soon as possible, but since I can't physically do anything to myself, I may need to rely on this law if I can't figure out another way. The February 6 date looms in the distance, and is far enough away to frustrate me daily. I can't imagine how I will feel if they do not make this date, or even if they do, the hoops I may have to go through to access assisted death.
The people making these decisions on our behalf are probably in a very different position than me. They might have a good life. They're probably not lying in bed hoping the next caregiver shows up so they can be helped to eat, drink, and have a bowel movement, and so they can be lifted and moved and have their catheter bag changed. They are probably not living in pain and suffering, struggling physically and emotionally to get through each day, which will be the same as yesterday and tomorrow.
I wasn't always like this. I had a very good life, full of friends, travel, working in film and television and more recently as an accountant and part-time music enthusiast/publicist for many of my live music friends. Even after my MS diagnosis in 1996 and subsequent disease progression, I never thought about ending my life. I travelled with my walker and wheelchair and stayed in accessible hotel rooms, with helpful friends. I was too busy living my life to think about ending it. I would read about someone with MS going to Switzerland for assisted death, and I'd think, "What a shame. I have fewer abilities than that person, and I would never do that!"
Then my disease progressed and I could no longer travel. My right side became weaker and more useless. Now I can't move it at all, but I still feel all the pain coursing through it. I had a terrible experience with some paramedics which resulted in a very broken and twisted right leg, a four-month hospital stay, and losing my ability to stand independently or walk at all. That was three years ago, and things have only gotten worse for me since then.
Donna with musician Peter Katz.
My ability to end my own life went by fast. I tried once, with an unsuccessful overdose in March 2014. I thought that was my way out, but since talking with DWD Canada I now know that would never have worked. When the SCOC made their ruling on February 6, 2015, I celebrated! I was so happy! As strange as it may seem to be happy to die, I was thrilled, as I'm sure many others were.
However, since then I see how slowly things have progressed. Almost eight months later, all I'm seeing is a biased panel and an online consultation that promotes fear. We are close to voting for our next Prime Minister, and nothing regarding PAD is being discussed. I understand it's a difficult topic for some, and they want to do it right. BUT IT STILL HAS TO BE DONE.
The Supreme Court set the deadline, and I hope and pray that it's kept. On February 7, 2016 people like me can have access to our right to physician assistance to die. But without legislation and guidelines, no one will help us. Please help me and those like me end our suffering by being as vocal as you can, demanding better from our politicians. Please don't make it harder for us. If life for us were not so hard, we would never think of asking for a doctor's help to end it.
The following entry was posted to Donna's Facebook wall this week: