Volunteer spotlight: Nora’s story

Personal Stories | February 4, 2022 | Dying With Dignity Canada

Home / Personal Stories / Volunteer spotlight: Nora’s story
A photo of Nora, a GTA Chapter volunteer and author of the blog.

Nora is a writer, editor, blogger, teacher, translator, interpreter and a presenter for the Greater Toronto Area (GTA) Chapter of Dying With Dignity Canada.

Why I support medical assistance in dying

Every sentient being is hardwired to survive.

If faced with danger we’ll do ANYTHING to survive.

And I am no exception.

However, I have witnessed situations, where life was scarier than death. That’s when people want to die. And the least we can do is give them medical assistance in dying to put an end to their misery.

My view was shaped by personal experiences. I watched three people I loved dearly die protracted and painful deaths.

My beloved aunt, who had been bed-ridden since she was 25, died at 56 of breast cancer. In the last few weeks she couldn’t breathe and was on oxygen.

My brother died of complications from multiple mini-strokes and a cardiac arrest. He spent his last two years in a nursing home. He couldn’t walk, go to the bathroom, or swallow, was on a feeding tube and choked on his saliva.

My mom died at 95 from Alzheimer’s disease, which affected her cognitive skills, her ability to walk and take care of herself. She didn’t want to live like that. She regularly asked me to help her die. But I couldn’t, and it broke my heart.

We are fortunate to live in a country which provides us with one of the best health care systems. But that sometimes has the reverse effect on the quality of our lives. My aunt spent 30 years in bed, my brother and mom spent years in wheelchairs and beds in nursing homes. As a regular visitor to both of them, I bore witness to the interminable suffering of hundreds of elderly, in often understaffed nursing homes.

There is no way I want my agony to be prolonged like that. If things get so bad physically, psychologically or both, that I WANT TO DIE, I want a medical professional help me end my suffering.

Why I volunteer for Dying With Dignity Canada’s GTA Chapter

There are some things I’m sure I don’t want at the end of my life. I don’t want heroic measures to save me from death. I don’t want to be trapped in a malfunctioning body/mind, or die in an institution, hooked up to life support. I don’t want to put my loved ones through what I went through watching the prolonged suffering of my mom and brother.

I also know that not everybody thinks like me – some people want to be kept alive as long as possible. Even those who believe they want medical assistance in dying can change their minds. Many people who get qualified and authorized to have MAID don’t use it. MAID is a complicated issue. I don’t pretend for a minute that it’s straightforward. There’s no one-size fits all solution.

But I firmly believe that living in a democratic country, we should be able to exercise our right to get medical assistance to end our life when we feel we are more scared of life than death.

MAID helps people who want to die, get professional help to end their suffering. It prevents desperate people from attempting suicide, botching it and ending up in a worse situation than before.

I volunteer with Dying With Dignity Canada’s Greater Toronto Area Chapter because it understands the value of MAID in a country where health care can prolong suffering. The DWDC Chapters and the national office help people who seek MAID navigate the complicated system. They hold information sessions on MAID and Advance Care Planning. These presentations and the other work we do keep the conversation about death, a difficult topic, ongoing and rational. We help promote social awareness about MAID and end-of-life choices in a society where talking about death is still a taboo.

To book a presentation, send us an email at toronto@dyingwithdignity.ca.

Related Content

Empower. Inform. Protect your rights.