The right of advance consent: A testimony and poem

At Dying With Dignity Canada, we are always moved when our supporters reach out to us about their struggles, their pain, and their hopes. Recently, Craig D. Barlow, from Ottawa, sent us a testimony and poem he wrote about his mother's tragic journey with Alzheimer's, his family's history of fighting for Canadian rights and freedoms, and his own concerns.

My father and my grandfather fought in the two World Wars of the 20th century. They, like many others, were willing to fight and die for their Canada in order to protect the rights & freedoms of all her citizens. They took this as their moral duty.

Another moral duty is to die in a responsible manner. Not only ensuring that one's personal, family and legal affairs are in order but also choosing, if possible, the manner in how one dies. Canadians, as expected, hold different views as to how to exercise this moral duty.

Our society strives for citizens to be respectful of those who hold different views and to be inclusive by allowing citizens to exercise their right & freedoms in the manner that they think is best for themselves, their families and society in general.

One way of exercising this moral duty of dying responsibly is to create the right to allow for Advance Consent to medical assistance in dying. MPs and Senators will hopefully act inclusively by amending the proposed legislation, Bill C-14, to allow for all different views held by responsible Canadians when exercising this moral duty.

My father and my grandfather would expect nothing less of today's MPs and Senators.

My mother was a widow when she had Alzheimer's. She was fortunate to have children who were able to support her through this tragic journey. But it took a profound toll on the family.

I do not have children and in the event that Alzheimer's strikes me in the future, I may be alone or my spouse may find it a tremendous challenge to provide the necessary long term daily care for me. I do not want to pay for caregivers while I spend my last few years in an on-going diminishing state of self-awareness, nor do I think Canada should require this of me.  More importantly, I want to know myself when I die. I do not want to just simply disappear.

Canadians should have the freedom to choose how to exercise their moral duty to die responsibly.

MPs and Senators, please amend the proposed legislation so that Canadians have the right of Advance Consent to medical assistance in dying.

The poem that follows expresses what I have learned from our family experience with Alzheimer's:

I Fear


I fear drowning

not in

the ocean, a lake or a pool


For I can hold

my breath

and swim.


I fear drowning

not in

my vices, addictions or mistakes


For I confess them

each and

every day.


I fear drowning

in the plaques and tangles

of my dying brain.                                                      


I fear drowning

into one's self

like my mother did                                                      


As her children

watched her



I fear Alzheimer's.


—Craig D. Barlow, April 2016

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