Why I chose to have a medically assisted death

A Dying With Dignity Canada supporter explains in her own words why she chose medical assistance in dying and offers advice to all Canadians planning for end of life.

My story is like most others except that I believe I was luckier than most. I’d been sick and in and out of the ER and doctors’ offices and testing labs, and well, you get the idea. The last two years, however, have been hell for both me and my husband.

I went from cooking, gardening, knitting and entertaining to taking painkillers and hobbling back and forth from bed to chair to the kitchen on rare occasions. I carried around a three-page medical resume, which the ER and ambulance EMTs and nurses really appreciated (more on that later).

Among other things, I had chronic obstructive pulmonary disease, cancer and the thing no one wants to talk about but should: bowel problems. I couldn’t go anywhere without oxygen and a change of clothing. There were times when I had no control over my bowels, and there is nothing more humiliating along with the pain. I’d had numerous bowel surgeries, which left me with an intestine full of scar tissue that caused blockages.

I have the best husband in the world. We’ve talked about dying and death before so he knew my wishes and I knew his. It wasn’t a surprise, then, when I finally decided that enough was enough and decided to talk to my family doctor about medical assistance in dying (MAID). My husband doesn’t want me to go, but he understands and is supportive. He has seen me suffering for far too long. 

After I made the decision to explore MAID as an option, my family doctor and I talked about it a few times and then she began the process for me. She couldn’t do it because of her religion, but she referred me to someone who would do it.

I was given a three-page form that had to be witnessed by two people. I was also interviewed by two doctors before the waiting began. The “procedure” cannot be done until 10 days have passed from the time that the forms are signed. A nurse will likely come to your home once a week to check in on you. I requested that I die at home and that’s how it will be done. You can have people with you if you choose.

Words of wisdom

If I could offer you any advice it would be stop smoking, and never ignore the smallest of changes in your bowel habits.

And, do you remember my medical resume? If you have a computer or know someone who does, sit down and list in point form all of your medical history and problems. Do a separate page for your medications. Every time I gave this resume to the ER staff and doctors, they were delighted that everything was there and that they didn’t have to write anything down, which — in my case — was a lot. They commented that they wished more people had them.

I also attached a Do-Not-Resuscitate form to my medical resume, which you can get from your doctor. As you age, you get more and more forgetful, especially when you arrive at the hospital in pain. The staff really appreciate all the info you can give them, and you’ll feel better not having to try to remember everything. Update it as required and it will be one thing off your plate. Lastly, if you’ve been left on your own, think about getting a rescue dog for company and enjoy every day of your life.

Dying With Dignity Canada extends a heartfelt thank you to the writer of this piece for sharing her story and wisdom with our readers.


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