Why MAID is not suicide: A personal story

Personal Stories | January 21, 2022 | Meiko

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Content warning: The topic of suicide is mentioned in this piece.

My first exposure to medical assistance in dying (MAID) was back in 2016, when a colleague of mine told me her dear friend’s cancer had returned and she was to become the very first MAID candidate in Canada.  At the time, I had no understanding of MAID nor did I have any strong opinions on whether I was for or against it, although I had read a news article negatively identifying MAID as nothing more than assisted suicide.

What I vividly remember is my colleague’s retelling of her friend’s experience. She told me her friend chose MAID to avoid the excruciating physical, mental, and emotional pain she and her family experienced with her first and second bouts with cancer. In my naivety, I was surprised to hear how happy and at peace she was when she had been accepted for MAID. On the day she was to receive MAID, she was more concerned about her attending doctor’s mental state, asking if he wanted her help on how to handle the situation. She died peacefully surrounded by her loving family and friends, feeling in control of her life and death.

Last year, a friend of mine died by suicide. I was in shock and completely heartbroken for her husband and children. They told me of their great pain and sorrow over the loss of their beloved wife and mother and of their confusion and feelings of guilt and helplessness. Sharing this unthinkably sad news with other family members and friends was almost unbearable and spread a large ripple of grief, regret, and remorse. There were no signs of peace or control; only many things left unsaid, many questions unanswered, and feelings of being cheated out of an opportunity to say goodbye.

Read: Language matters: Why we use the term ‘medical assistance in dying’

For me, these two personal experiences illustrate a marked contrast. In one, the person who died with medical assistance went peacefully, knowing her family would find solace in her decision to choose her own way to die. The suicide created a sudden departure; it was unexpected, undiscussed and unexplained, leaving the family bereft. Seeing this juxtaposition I believe I have unequivocally answered the question “Is MAID suicide?” Absolutely not.

Written by Mieko, Volunteer, Greater Toronto Area Chapter of Dying With Dignity Canada

Photo by Ellery Sterling on Unsplash

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