In Case You Missed It: September 2017

In Case You Missed It is a monthly round-up of news articles and commentaries featuring Dying With Dignity Canada speakers and stories. Did you miss these stories in September?

DWDC’s Communications Officer Cory Ruf spoke to the Winnipeg Free Press about why Manitobans should be concerned about the province’s policy on medical assistance in dying (MAID):

"I think the Pallister government is tying itself in knots here," Ruf said. "They’re saying OK we need to develop policies to ensure that these conscientious objections don’t result in patients being denied their right to MAID and then a few line items later admitting that in some cases that’s going to be impossible and we’re talking about a constitutionally protected right here."

On August 31, 68-year-old Robyn Moro finally accessed her right to a peaceful death. Robyn was one of two plaintiffs in the Lamb v. Canada case challenging the federal assisted dying law's requirement that a person's natural death be "reasonably foreseeable."

Last March, DWDC Physicians Advisory Council member, Dr. Ellen Wiebe, determined that Robyn was not eligible for MAID. However, the ruling in the AB case in Ontario this past June gave Dr. Wiebe the clarification she needed to move forward. DWDC is relieved that Robyn finally found the peace she fought so hard to achieve.

The Canadian Press’ Joan Bryden wrote about Robyn’s quest for a peaceful death in an article that was picked up by various outlets, including the Times Colonist.

You can read more about Robyn Moro on the DWDC blog.

DWDC volunteer Liana Brittain spoke to the Toronto Star about the need for advance requests for MAID. Her husband, Paul, accessed an assisted death earlier this year, but the couple would have benefited if he had been able to make an advance request.

“We would have had more time together had he had the opportunity to put ... his witnessed, written directive, into play,” Brittain said.

Liana also shared her views on advance requests for assisted dying with CBC’s Maritime Noon.

(Her segment begins at the 10:20 mark.)

A brief overview of Liana’s interview on CBC’s Maritime Noon was published on CBC News Prince Edward Island:

“I felt, and so did he, that our time together was cut short."

The second International Conference on End of Life Law, Ethics and Practice took place in Halifax from September 13 to 15. The event’s opening plenary on “The Story of Law Reform in Canada” brought together retired senator and DWDC board member, Jim Cowan; leading constitutional lawyer, Joe Arvay; and psychiatrist Dr. Mona Gupta. Together, they discussed the history of assisted dying legislation in Canada. An overview of their session can be found on the Dalhousie University news site.

“Most of us were surprised and deeply disappointed by the government’s legislative proposals,” said Cowan. “It certainly did not reflect in any way the work of our committee. Most important, the eligibility requirements that were made in C-14 were significantly different than those set out by the Supreme Court of Canada in Carter. Individuals who would have qualified under Carter would not qualify under Bill C-14.”

Before the discussion, Jim also spoke to CBC’s Information Morning Nova Scotia about the law and its impacts.

A new study found that an overwhelming majority of Quebec caregivers said they supported extending access to MAID to individuals suffering from dementia or Alzheimer’s disease, as reported by the Montreal Gazette.

The study of Quebec caregivers, which was conducted by Université de Sherbrooke epidemiologist Gina Bravo, found that 91 per cent of respondents said they were in favour of allowing people with dementia or Alzheimer’s who are at the “terminal state of their illness, showing signs of distress, and who have an advance written directive,” to have an assisted death.

DWDC’s National Volunteer and Events Coordinator Kelsey Goforth was interviewed by Canadian Funeral News about MAID deaths and grief.

(The article can be found on page 40.)

Tom Campbell, Ontario’s former deputy health minister, accessed an assisted death in early September, but his daughter told the Toronto Star that he still worried that others wouldn’t have the same access.

“He was very adamant that the legislation has not gone far enough. And he hopes that having been former deputy minister of health for Ontario might give some weight to the cause.”

Some faith-based groups have expressed concern about the pressure put on Catholic hospitals to allow MAID on-site. However, in an interview with the Catholic Register, DWDC CEO Shanaaz Gokool upheld that patient-centred, essential healthcare must be prioritized:

“We are campaigning to ensure that people have access to medical assistance in dying wherever they happen to be,” said Gokool. “We just want to ensure that basic and essential health care is offered in publicly-funded health care facilities who have a mandate to provide services to the community that they’re in.”

Nearly two-thirds of Nova Scotians seeking MAID in the first six months of 2017 did not receive it because, according to the province’s health authority, many barriers to assisted dying access exist in the province. The Canadian Press’ Michael Tutton wrote about these barriers in an article that was picked up by The Globe and Mail.

The Nova Scotia Health Authority reports that of 64 referrals made for medical assistance in dying, 23 were completed between Jan. 1 and Canada Day.

In her “Grey Matters” column for the National Post, former DWDC CEO Wanda Morris writes about elderly patients’ right to refuse medical treatment.

"We have the right to say no. Treatment is always an option, never a requirement.”

A CBC News investigative report found that do-not-resuscitate requests are rarely tracked in Canada, causing some to worry that their wishes won’t be respected.


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