Blog

Kirsten's story: Call the Midwife…for Advance Care Planning?

Kirsten Schmidt-Chamberlain was expecting her first child when her midwife brought up Advance Care Planning (ACP) and preparing a will. She learned that every moment is an opportunity to talk about your wishes for healthcare, especially when a big life change (like becoming a parent) is on the horizon. Read on for Kirsten’s reflections on Advance Care Planning for someone who is expecting and steps that all readers can take to protect themselves and their loved ones.

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Chantelle’s story: An open letter to Covenant Health

Chantelle delivered her daughter in Covenant Health Hospital, a religious healthcare facility. In this open letter she responds to an incident in 2017 when 66-year-old ALS patient Doreen Nowicki was assessed for medical assistance in dying (MAID) on an Edmonton sidewalk after Covenant Health abruptly rescinded permission to have it in the facility. Though Covenant Health now allows assessments for assisted death onsite, they continue to ban the procedure’s provision on their grounds. Chantelle, a registered nurse in Alberta, shares her views on religious beliefs, publicly funded healthcare, and access to medical services.

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Emily’s story: My mother accessed MAID with me by her side

Emily’s mother Margaret was determined to access her end-of-life choice when she felt her suffering became too much to bear. When that time came, Emily accompanied her mother on her medical assistance in dying (MAID) journey. This blog post is her reflection on the process, the bravery of the healthcare providers that took part, and what it meant to their family to have those final moments to say goodbye.

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June 12, 2020: Message from CEO Helen Long

The latest update from the desk of Dying With Dignity's CEO, Helen Long. Stay tuned for regular updates on our work and current events. In this update: a roundup of our 2020 Annual General Meeting and some advocacy news.

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Get to know our CEO: An interview with Helen Long

Our CEO Helen Long joined Dying With Dignity Canada in March 2020 and the team has had a great time getting to know her (though most of our time together has been virtual!). Here’s a chance for you to learn a little more about Helen, her background, and what she’s bringing to her work fighting for end-of-life rights at DWDC.

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Hope’s story: My parents have suffered because of Alzheimer’s Disease — I fear I’m next

On the Dying With Dignity Canada (DWDC) blog, Hope shared the heart-wrenching story of her father’s passing from, and her mother’s struggle with, Alzheimer’s disease. Now, inspired by John Scully’s personal story, she’s returning to share her thoughts on her own future and fears about inheriting Alzheimer’s Disease without the ability to make an advance request for medical assistance in dying (MAID).

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Jody's story: Had MAID been an option, my life would be different

Jody Lehr Turco watched her mother battle cancer and suffer through tremendous pain before passing away suddenly. In this powerful blog post, she reflects on what it would have meant to her mother and her family to have medical assistance in dying (MAID) as an option, and why more families should discuss end of life before confronting an illness or accident.

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Jane’s story: My husband’s end-of-life journey & memory

Jane’s husband Bill was a man with a great sense of humour and a love for poetry and all music. In this blog post, his wife of 63 years shares the story of their love and Bill’s end-of-life journey. In August 2018, this seemingly healthy man fell, lost consciousness, had a concussion, then recovered (though not fully) after several weeks. Jane tells the story of Bill’s six days on life support and her agonizing decision to take him off of it, as well as the legacy of their love and life together.

 

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“One Hundred Twenty Nine Thousand Six Hundred Minutes”: A poem about MAID eligibility under the proposed Bill C-7

Ernest Frederiksen is an Alberta man who lives in chronic, excruciating pain from fibromyalgia. He is not eligible for MAID under Bill C-14 and has written a poem in response to the tabled assisted dying legislation. This poem responds to the part of Bill C-7 that would require those like him whose deaths are not reasonably foreseeable to go through a 90-day waiting period after the first assessment. You can read his other DWDC blog posts by clicking here and here.

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May 14, 2020: Message from CEO Helen Long

The latest update from the desk of Dying With Dignity's CEO, Helen Long. Stay tuned for regular updates on our work and current events. In this update: welcoming spring, two of our recent webinars, and remembering 40 years of DWDC's work.

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A Nurse Practitioner’s insights on palliative care and MAID (Part 2)

As a MAID assessor and member of Dying With Dignity Canada’s Clinician’s Advisory Council, Valerie Cooper is a palliative care nurse practitioner (NP) who assesses patients for medical assistance in dying (MAID). From Kingston, ON to a small Texas border town, she’s cared for patients in diverse settings. In this two-part series, Valerie provides valuable insight into the experience of a nurse practitioner who understands the integrated nature of MAID and palliative care. This is Part 2 of a two-part series; you can read Part 1 by clicking here.

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A Nurse Practitioner’s insights on palliative care and MAID (Part 1)

As a MAID assessor and member of Dying With Dignity Canada’s Clinician’s Advisory Council, Valerie Cooper is a palliative care nurse practitioner (NP) who assesses patients for medical assistance in dying (MAID). From Kingston, ON to a small Texas border town, she’s cared for patients in diverse settings. In this two-part series, Valerie provides valuable insight into the experience of a nurse practitioner who understands the integrated nature of MAID and palliative care. This is Part 1 of a two-part series.

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Press release: Protecting MAID Practitioners and Patients During COVID-19

Dying With Dignity Canada’s statement of support for CAMAP’s Statement on Provincial and Federal regulations and policies pertaining to Medical Assistance in Dying (MAiD) during the COVID-19 Pandemic.

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Hope’s story: My parents’ struggles with Alzheimer’s disease

Hope’s mother and father were both diagnosed with Alzheimer’s disease within 5 years of each other. As their primary caretaker and decision-maker, Hope has watched both her parents struggle through their illness and mourned her father’s eventual death from the disease. This powerful story is her plea for access to Advance Requests for medical assistance in dying (MAID) for those with degenerative illnesses like Alzheimer’s disease.

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John’s story: The truth about denying MAID to those suffering mental illness

John Scully is a former CBC/CTV/BBC journalist who has incurable depression, general anxiety disorder, and PTSD from covering over thirty-five wars. He has attempted suicide twice but now wants the as-yet prohibited option of MAID (Medical Assistance in Dying) for the mentally ill. He has read various opinions on the CBC and other outlets and notes the vast majority come from doctors and academics, though little or nothing from the mentally ill themselves. He wants to change that by sharing his personal perspective in this powerful piece.

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Please Come, Walk with Me

Dr. Ron Posno, age 80, is a tireless advocate for the right to end-of-life choice. In this moving piece, he shares his experience living with dementia and his personal perspective on Canada’s medical assistance in dying (MAID) legislation.

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April 8, 2020: Message from CEO Helen Long

The latest update from the desk of Dying With Dignity's CEO, Helen Long. Stay tuned for regular updates on our work and current events. In this update: an introduction from Helen, and how COVID-19 is affecting our work and access to end-of-life choice.

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New Toolkit: Write your Advance Directive during the COVID-19 pandemic

These are challenging times filled with a great deal of uncertainty. However, during a pandemic you still have choice at end of life. This blog and accompanying COVID-19 ACP Toolkit will help you take action now. This guide will empower you to make your wishes known to your loved ones, and help you prepare your Advance Directive for use by health care professionals.

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Yvonne’s story, Part 2: My mother’s forced transfer and struggle to access MAID

Part 2 of Yvonne’s story details what her mother went through during her last few months of life (you can read Part 1 here). It describes her ordeal with her decision to stay in the hospital in her Northern Ontario city so she could be visited by her friends. It also describes her medical assistance in dying (MAID) experience where she was forced to move because the only hospital in her city happened to be a Catholic hospital.

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Yvonne’s story, Part 1: My mother’s forced transfer and struggle to access MAID

This true two-part story details what Yvonne and her mother went through during her last few months of life. It describes her ordeal with her decision to stay in the hospital in her Northern Ontario city so she could be visited by her friends. It also describes her medical assistance in dying experience. She was forced to move because the only hospital in her city happened to be a Catholic hospital.

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DWDC statement on COVID-19

At Dying With Dignity Canada, the health and safety of our community is our priority. We recognize COVID-19’s impact on people across Canada and have made adjustments to our operations and programming to ensure we are following best practices for containment.

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Frances’ story: My reflection on my mom’s assisted death

Frances’ mother lived a full life, moving from a small town in Quebec to Alberta after her marriage. She was dedicated to her family and loved her grandchildren dearly. After leukemia and other ongoing health issues, she decided to access MAID in 2019. In this blog, Frances shares her thoughts on the process – what she wished had gone differently, and what was powerful and freeing about her mother’s decision. 

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DWDC moving to remote operations

As of Monday, March 16 at 5 pm, Dying With Dignity Canada will be operating remotely. Our Toronto office is closed until further notice. 

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Our position on the new assisted dying legislation

The Federal government recently tabled legislation to amend Canada’s law on medical assistance in dying. Read on for Dying With Dignity Canada's statement on our position on these proposed changes.

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Justice for Jackie: An Open Letter

Nathan Parker’s grandmother, Jackie, was a formidable presence. As an Air Force veteran who had traveled all over the world, her strength was a cornerstone of her personality. However, at the end of her life, she couldn’t exert the control or make the decisions she wanted to about her health. In this powerful letter, her grandson Nathan shares his family's heart wrenching experience watching Jackie suffer and eventually pass after voluntarily stopping eating and drinking.

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Advance Care Planning and COVID-19

Worried about COVID-19 and its spread? Thinking about how to take action and prepare? DWDC’s National Advance Care Planning Coordinator, Connie Jorsvik, has tips on how to use this opportunity to have conversations about your health and plan ahead to give you peace of mind.

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An Empowered Patient and Caregiver Guide to COVID-19

Dealing with the COVID-19 outbreak poses challenges for the global community, as well as for each of us individually. DWDC’s National Advance Care Planning Coordinator, Connie Jorsvik, helps us shift from anxiety to long-term planning and habit shifting.

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Irene's story: No rest in peace

At age 56, Waterloo, ON’s Irene Browning is sure of what she wants. After a journey with Major Depressive Disorder and Fibromyalgia, she made her decision and made a request for medical assistance in dying (MAID). But what happens when Irene’s request for MAID is denied, and what will proposed upcoming changes to legislation mean for people suffering from mental illness?

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Monica’s story, Part 3: My mother’s journey to access MAID

Monica’s mother, Laura Jones, chose to access medical assistance in dying (MAID) on January 24, 2019 at her home in Saskatoon. She was 99. This two-part story, shared by Monica, aims to help improve the experience of accessing MAID for others in the future. If you haven’t read Part 1 or Part 2, please read them now to catch up.

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Nancy’s story: My cancer and request to access MAID

What is it like to make a difficult end-of-life decision? In this powerful blog post, DWDC volunteer witness Nancy shares her journey with cancer and her choice to apply for MAID.  

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Monica’s story, Part 2: My mother’s journey to access MAID

Monica’s mother, Laura Jones, chose to access medical assistance in dying (MAID) on January 24, 2019 at her home in Saskatoon. She was 99. This three-part story, shared by Monica, aims to help improve the experience of accessing MAID for others in the future. If you haven’t read Part 1, you can find it by clicking here.

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Bill C-7: Federal Government Resources

On February 24th, 2020, the federal government tabled Bill C-7. The new legislation proposes broadening the 2016 law on medically assisted death to include those whose death is not "reasonably foreseeable," among other changes. 

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Monica’s story, Part 1: My mother’s decision to access MAID

Monica’s mother, Laura Jones, chose to access medical assistance in dying (MAID) on January 24, 2019 at her home in Saskatoon. She was 99. This story, shared by Monica, aims to help improve the experience of accessing MAID for others in the future.

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Kathleen’s story: My mother’s struggle and fight for justice

Kathleen’s mother, Christa, was a formidable woman with a zest for life. However, her inability to choose at end-of-life has left her and her family in a position she hoped to never be in.

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Dying with Dignity Canada Names New Chief Executive Officer

February 12, 2020, Toronto, ON – Dying with Dignity Canada (DWDC) is pleased to announce its Board of Directors has named Helen Long as Chief Executive Officer. Helen will assume her new role effective March 16.

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CAMAP releases key messages on end-of-life care & assisted dying

The Canadian Association of MAID Assessors and Providers (CAMAP) has released new key messages on end-of-life care and medical assistance in dying (MAID). Read on for background and information on how this group of healthcare professionals is addressing discourse around changes to Canada's assisted dying law.

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New Poll: Majority of Canadians support expanding access to medical assistance in dying

An overwhelming majority of Canadians want expanded access to medical assistance in dying according to a new national survey commissioned by Dying with Dignity Canada (DWDC) and conducted by Ipsos.

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BCCLA Toolkit Available as a Resource for Federal Online MAID Questionnaire

The federal government is accepting survey responses online on amending Bill C-14 to remove the “natural death has become reasonably foreseeable” requirement and to allow advance requests. The British Columbia Civil Liberties Association (BCCLA) has produced an excellent resource to help respondents formulate their own thoughtful and informed responses.

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"A Glimpse of My Hell": A DWDC supporter shares a poem about not being able to access MAID

In this special blog post, Alberta's Ernest Frederiksen shares an original poem about his pain and not being able to access medical assistance in dying (MAID). At 27 years old, he has twice been denied access to MAID, as his death is not reasonably foreseeable. Read on for his powerful reflections on suffering, grief, and being denied his end-of-life wishes.

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Dying With Dignity Canada urges rights-based approach to changes to the federal assisted dying law

Dying With Dignity Canada is urging the federal government to pursue a rights-based approach as it considers changes to the 2016 assisted dying law.

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Siobhan’s story: Supporting my husband’s journey through a medically assisted death

How do you say goodbye to a life partner of 25 years? In this post, Siobhan of Calgary, AB shares her experience supporting her husband Scott through his end-of-life journey and choice to access an assisted death. Read on for Siobhan’s powerful reflections on her family’s story, including lessons she learned and what she thinks others should know about choosing medical assistance in dying (MAID).

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5 things I've learned as a nurse practitioner providing MAID

Nurse practitioner (NP) Erica Maynard of Nova Scotia brings her whole self to work, and that includes her role in medical assistance in dying (MAID) assessments and provisions. How does this procedure uniquely affect nurse practitioners, and what lessons have come up along the way during Erica’s journey? In this special post for the Dying With Dignity Canada blog, Erica shares her experiences working with patients to help them access their right to choice at end of life.

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Dying With Dignity Canada welcomes Quebec’s plan to allow advance requests for assisted dying

Dying With Dignity Canada welcomes the Quebec government’s plan to permit advance requests for assisted dying.

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Peter’s story: A medically assisted death, completely on his own terms

In this moving tribute, the sons of Nova Scotia’s Peter Blakesley describe life after their father’s melanoma diagnosis — and how the choice of an assisted death gave Peter the chance to die in a manner that, he felt, preserved his dignity and agency.

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Federal government must make good on its promise to fix Canada’s assisted dying rules, Dying With Dignity Canada says

Ottawa must take immediate steps to fix human-rights violations imposed by the federal assisted dying law, Dying With Dignity Canada (DWDC) says.

The leading national charity defending end-of-life rights in Canada, DWDC is calling on the Trudeau government to follow through with its election promise to expand the federal assisted dying law.

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Bill 207 represents ‘grave threat’ to assisted dying access in Alberta, Dying With Dignity Canada says

Dying With Dignity Canada is vigorously condemning a provincial private member’s bill that threatens to impede assisted dying access in Alberta.

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My husband died too soon because of the ban on advance requests for assisted dying

In this powerfully candid entry for the DWDC blog, British Columbia’s Johanna Clark remembers her husband Neil’s final months following a lung cancer diagnosis in 2017. Neil accessed his wish of a medically assisted death in May 2018, with the heartbreaking knowledge that he could have lived for longer. Neil, worried about losing capacity and knowing that the federal assisted dying law requires final consent at the time of the procedure, chose to end his life early to ensure he could have the assisted death he wanted.

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Marion’s story: Why I want advance requests for assisted dying

In this moving testimonial, British Columbia’s Marion Janssen recounts the end-of-life experiences of her grandparents and parents. After watching three loved ones — her mother, father, and grandmother — suffer with dementia, Marion knows she does not want the same ending for herself. That’s why, she writes, she believes advance requests for assisted dying must be allowed.

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4 challenges I faced after my husband’s assisted death

In September 2016, Nova Scotia’s Douglas Henshaw became one of the first people to receive a medically assisted death in Canada. His wife, Sylvia — a Dying With Dignity Canada volunteer and member of our First Person Witness Council — reflects on four lessons she’s learned in the past three years.

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Dying With Dignity Canada urges lawmakers to accept Quebec ruling on assisted dying

Dying With Dignity Canada is cheering a Quebec judge’s decision to strike down a restriction in Bill C-14, Canada’s federal assisted dying law.

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Barbara’s story: Our love-filled farewell

How do you say goodbye to your partner of 66 years? Barbara of Victoria, B.C. struggled to imagine life without her husband, Joe. However, after his cancer diagnosis, Joe chose to access medical assistance in dying (MAID) to end his pain, and to ensure he maintained the quality of life he wanted for himself and for those he cared about. Ultimately, Joe’s choice to access MAID brought peace to the whole family. Now, Barbara is sharing their story with the hope of informing and empowering others.

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Dr. David Amies: Exploring advance requests for assisted dying

In his final post for the DWDC blog, Dr. David Amies examines the Council of Canadian Academies’ report on the possible implications of extending assisted dying access to individuals whose right to choice is threatened by the ban on advance requests.

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Paul’s story: How my wife was denied her end-of-life choice

In this powerful post for the Dying With Dignity Canada blog, Calgary’s Paul Morck opens up about his wife Barbara’s struggle to access her wish of a medically assisted death.

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MJ’s story: What we didn’t expect in my mom’s journey with assisted dying

MJ remembers her mother, Linda, as a strong woman who was always taking care of others. From her childhood in Quebec City to Montreal, MJ remembers Linda as a fiercely independent woman with a caring heart. Once Linda was diagnosed with lung cancer, however, she struggled through pain and ultimately made the decision to access medical assistance in dying (MAID). In this blog, MJ shares her mother’s story, and what it was like for her and her siblings to say goodbye.

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Richard’s story: 52 independent witness requests in 52 weeks

Under the federal law, a sick and suffering individual looking to have an assisted death must have their written assisted dying request signed by two independent witnesses. These witnesses must not be involved in the applicant's care and cannot stand to materially benefit from the person's death.

For many people, finding two suitable witnesses can be tremendously difficult, which is why Dying With Dignity Canada (DWDC) launched its independent witness program in late 2016. Since then, our trained volunteers have served as witnesses in nearly 1,500 cases nationwide.

One witness is Mississauga, Ontario’s Richard Dowsett, who first began witnessing in June 2018. In his quest to help people access their wish of an assisted death, Richard witnessed for one person each week for an entire year.

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Announcement from Dying With Dignity Canada's Board of Directors

Dying With Dignity Canada’s Board of Directors announced Thursday that Shanaaz Gokool is leaving the organization, effectively immediately, after three years as its CEO.

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Geraldine’s story: How I supported my husband on a journey with assisted dying

In this moving entry for the DWDC blog, Ontario’s Geraldine F. Neily honours Dale, her husband of nearly 63 years, who accessed his wish of a medically assisted death in October 2018. His end-of-life choice, she writes, was the final chapter in “a life well lived.”

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In Case You Missed It: June 2019

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

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Dr. David Amies: Exploring assisted dying for individuals whose sole underlying medical condition is a mental disorder

In his penultimate post for the DWDC blog, Dr. David Amies examines the Council of Canadian Academies’ report on the possible implications of extending assisted dying access to individuals whose sole underlying medical condition is psychiatric in nature.

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Dr. David Amies: Is it right to forbid mature minors access to assisted dying?

In his latest post for the DWDC blog, Dr. David Amies examines the Council of Canadian Academies’ report on the possible implications of extending assisted dying access to mature minors. In this piece, he asks a difficult but necessary question: is it fair to allow an 80-year-old with terminal cancer to access assisted dying but deny a 17-year-old who has the same diagnosis and demonstrates the capacity to make medical decisions as an adult?

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Justine’s story: Chronic pain has left me in a prison of my own existence

In this powerfully written blog post, Justine from Ontario shares how her daily chronic pain has stripped her of any quality of life. Suffering with pain that feels like “literal torture,” Justine has applied for a medically assisted death, but was formally denied because she does not meet one requirement in the law: her natural death is not reasonably foreseeable.

In an effort to shine a light on the unconstitutionality of Canada’s assisted dying law, Justine shares her important story.

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Ernest’s story: I live in constant excruciating pain. But I don’t qualify for an assisted death.

Ernest Frederiksen, an man living in Alberta, has fibromyalgia. The excruciating pain he suffers daily has, in his own words, turned him into a shadow of his former self. Despite his suffering, however, Ernest has been denied medical assistance in dying because he does not meet certain requirements under Canada’s assisted dying law. This is his story.

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In Case You Missed It: May 2019

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

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Opinion: Why I believe advance requests for assisted dying must be allowed

In 2017, Calgary’s Carol Abbott-Wolfson watched her husband, Gerald, and her Aunt Marion suffer horrific deaths. Neither were able to exercise their right to an assisted death because of the law’s requirement that a person be competent at the time of the procedure. If the law allowed advance requests for assisted dying, Carol writes, their heartbreaking experiences at end of life may have been prevented.

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Watch now: State of the Movement — Recording of May 26 Livestream

Are you interested in learning more about the state of Canadians’ end-of-life rights nearly three years after the passage of the federal assisted dying law?

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Tracy’s story: My mother’s choice of an assisted death provided a lesson in bravery

In this powerful testimonial, Ontario's Tracy Kelly writes about her beloved and brave mother's choice of a medically assisted death after a terminal cancer diagnosis.

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Linda Crabtree: Why we are writing Dying With Dignity Canada into our wills

Writer and advocate Linda Crabtree, C.M., O.Ont., candidly shares how her mother's intolerable suffering with dementia led her to join Dying With Dignity Canada — and why she's making the commitment to protecting Canadians' end-of-life rights for years to come.

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Dying With Dignity Canada applauds Ontario appeal court decision on assisted dying

An appeal court decision to uphold the College of Physicians and Surgeons of Ontario’s (CPSO) policy on effective referral for assisted dying is a victory for patients’ rights in the province, Dying With Dignity Canada (DWDC) says.

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A powerful excerpt from Liana Brittain's new book

As an active Dying With Dignity Canada volunteer, regular contributor to our blog, and chair of our First Person Witness Council, Liana Brittain has moved people across the world with her powerful storytelling and voice. She has gone above and beyond to keep her final promise to her husband, Paul, who had an assisted death in 2017 and asked her to share the story of his choice.

Liana continues to honour Paul’s request by sharing the story of their love, his terminal cancer diagnosis, and finally, his journey with assisted dying in her new book, MAiD Musings: A Widow’s Reflections. She has generously shared an excerpt from her book, which consists of short vignettes from her life with Paul and her original poetry, on our blog. Read the emotional excerpt below!

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In Case You Missed It: April 2019

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

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Bill's family story: How we supported our strong, courageous mother in her choice of an assisted death

In this moving and emotional testimonial, British Columbia’s Bill Currie shares what it was like to support his mother, Minnie, on her journey with assisted dying.

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Having the talk: Conversation starters for advance care planning

On National Advance Care Planning Day 2019, Dying With Dignity Canada’s Digital Communications Coordinator Rachel Phan asked supporters for help in getting her advance care planning conversations started. In response, nearly 200 of our supporters across the country submitted stories about how they started these difficult, but important, conversations with their family and friends.

We’ve compiled a small sample of those responses with the hope that they’ll be as helpful to you and your loved ones as they’ve been to Rachel and our team.

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Meet the candidates for DWDC's 2019-2020 Board of Directors

Dying With Dignity Canada is pleased to announce the slate of candidates for our 2019-2020 Board of Directors.

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"Leave a legacy, not a mess": The costs of not preparing your advance care plan

In this blog post, British Columbia’s Connie Jorsvik — a former registered nurse and current independent healthcare navigator and patient advocate — shares her thoughts on the financial and emotional costs of not preparing your advance care plan. She also provides tips on how you can take care of yourself and your family.

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Tammy’s story: How I’m creating space in my Vietnamese family to talk about death, dying, and end of life

Advance care planning involves having difficult discussions that require individuals to navigate often complex aspects of culture and family relationships. In this special Dying With Dignity Canada blog post, supporter and volunteer Tammy Pham talks about how she’s opening up space for conversations about death and dying within her Vietnamese-Canadian family, where such topics are often considered taboo and avoided. She also provides insights and tips on how people can overcome cultural barriers to initiate and foster these important discussions.

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"Ode to My Power of Attorney for Personal Care": A DWDC supporter shares a poem about her end-of-life wishes

Ottawa's Pat McLaughlin shares an original poem, in which she reflects on her wishes for care at end of life.

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5 things to remember when planning for end of life

In celebration of National Advance Care Planning Day on April 16, Dying With Dignity Canada board member Leigh Naturkach shares her top five things to consider when planning for end of life.

April may be Advance Care Planning month, but it’s not the only time to talk about end-of-life wishes. It is simply a reminder. We plan as best we can for life, and death deserves no less. No matter how hard it might be to think about death, it is an inevitable part of life. It’s also important to remember death is not just a medical event — it is a life event. To me, advance care planning goes beyond the medical directive.

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Advance care planning: What you need to know

Have you started thinking about advance care planning? Do you know who you would choose to make decisions about your health on your behalf? If you haven’t started working on your plan yet, April — Advance Care Planning Month — is a great time to start. Dying With Dignity Canada is running a special advance care planning blog series throughout the month, with posts designed to guide you through different aspects of the process and introduce important things to consider.

In the first instalment of the series, Dying With Dignity Canada's Education and Engagement Officer Maureen Aslin answers commonly asked questions about how to get started on your advance care plan (ACP) and dispels some misconceptions about ACPs.

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Jenny’s story: Loving my mother and learning how to navigate the choice of an assisted death

Watching a family member access medical assistance in dying (MAID) can be a complicated emotional experience, one that Nova Scotia’s Jenny Hasselman knows all too well. Hasselman supported her mother — her favourite person in the world — on a journey with assisted dying after her mother’s pancreatic cancer diagnosis. Now, she is sharing her story as part of her healing process with the hope that her words will normalize the procedure and shine a light on a flawed requirement in the law.

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In Case You Missed It: March 2019

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

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Lizzie’s story: “Finally, I have some control over what is happening to me.”

Jeanie Gagnon’s Aunt Lizzie lived a long and full life before intolerable suffering led her to make the decision to access medical assistance in dying. In unspeakable pain and robbed of the ability to do the activities she loved most, Lizzie was unwavering in her choice. In this special Dying With Dignity Canada blog post, Jeanie — who has asked that her real name not be used to protect her privacy — shares her aunt’s experience with choosing and preparing for a medically assisted death.

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Most Albertans believe assisted dying should be allowed at all public hospitals: poll

Eight in 10 Albertans disagree with the practice of allowing publicly funded hospitals in the province to ban assisted dying on their premises, a new poll has found.

In February, Dying With Dignity Canada (DWDC) commissioned the research firm Ipsos to conduct a survey of 800 Albertans on whether they believe all public hospitals in the province should be required to allow medical assistance in dying (MAID) on-site. The poll follows a series of news reports by CBC Edmonton surrounding the treatment of severely ill Albertans who requested MAID in healthcare facilities where it is banned.

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Megan’s story: My mother’s fight to have an assisted death in her own home

Dr. Devorah Greenberg was a lifelong social justice advocate. Ordinarily, the Simon Fraser University professor campaigned for the rights of others whose freedom or well-being was at risk. But her final campaign for social justice saw her fight for her own rights — in particular, her right to access medical assistance in dying in the long-term care facility which she had come to call home. In a moving new testimonial for Dying With Dignity Canada’s blog, Dr. Greenberg’s daughter, Megan, describes what it was like to support her mother in her quest to end her life how, when, and where she wanted.

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In Case You Missed It: February 2019

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

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Barrie's story: How a requirement in Canada's assisted dying law prevented my wife from accessing her choice

In this blog post, Barrie Radcliffe of Barrie, Ont. candidly shares how the late-stage consent requirement in Canada's assisted dying law had tragic, heartbreaking consequences for his wife, Lynne.

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Liana Brittain: How Canada’s flawed assisted dying law led my husband to end his life earlier than he wanted

All Paul Couvrette wanted was more time. He had finally met and married the love of his life, and they had retired to their dream home by the sea on Prince Edward Island. But Paul's lifelong retirement dream was cut tragically short when he was diagnosed with terminal cancer not long after their move.

Choosing to die with dignity on his own terms, Paul underwent the rigorous screening and approval process for medical assistance in dying. He was found to be eligible for the procedure, but a flaw in Canada's assisted dying law forced Paul to die earlier than he wanted.

In this blog, his widow, Liana Brittain, reflects on the late-stage consent requirement in the law and the cruel choice it forced Paul to make.

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Dr. David Amies: The next frontier for assisted dying in Canada

In this blog post, Dr. David Amies takes a look at the groups of Canadians who are harmed by the late-stage consent requirement in Canada's assisted dying law.

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New campaign calls for Audrey’s Amendment to Canada’s assisted dying law

As part of a new campaign honouring Halifax’s Audrey Parker, Dying With Dignity Canada (DWDC) is calling on federal lawmakers to make an urgently needed fix to Canada’s assisted dying rules.

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In Case You Missed It: January 2019

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

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Kristen’s story: Will my mother be denied end-of-life choice like my grandmother was?

In this blog post, Edmonton's Kristen Kizlyk describes how a dementia diagnosis ultimately changed the course of her grandmother's life. Her final memories of her grandmother — her "shining light" — are full of pain and suffering.

Kristen hopes her mother, who was diagnosed with multiple sclerosis in 2001, will be able to avoid this same fate. But because of the ban on advance requests for assisted dying, Kristen's mother — who is at risk of losing capacity — may not be able to access her right to a peaceful medically assisted death. Our existing discriminatory rules, Kristen writes, must change to ensure the rights of people with degenerative conditions are respected.

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Dying With Dignity Canada to defend patients’ rights in Ontario appeal case on assisted dying

Dying With Dignity Canada (DWDC) is returning to court this week to defend patients’ rights in Ontario.

The organization is an official intervenor in a case that will be heard by the Court of Appeal of Ontario on Monday and Tuesday. At stake is the College of Physicians and Surgeons of Ontario’s (CPSO) policy of effective referral for assisted dying. Approved in 2016, the policy requires physicians who oppose assisted dying to refer patients who ask for it to a clinician or third-party agency that can handle the request.

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In Case You Missed It: December 2018

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

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Liana Brittain: Surviving the holiday season in the midst of grief

When it comes to grief and bereavement, everyone’s path is different. Similarly, every experience with medical assistance in dying (MAID) is as individual as the person who chooses it. That’s why we have much to learn from the growing number of Canadians who have supported a loved one on a journey with assisted dying.

In this special blog post, Ontario’s Liana Brittain provides invaluable insights into her grief following her husband Paul’s assisted death. She also writes about the unique challenges facing loved ones who are left behind after a MAID death and the pain that is triggered by the holiday season.

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Don Kent’s gift to Canadians

DWDC’s Rachel Phan reflects on what it was like to help the late Don Kent blog about his journey with assisted dying.

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DWDC responds to release of federal studies on assisted dying

The Canadian government must not wait any longer to restore the rights of people who have been discriminated against under the federal assisted dying law, Dying With Dignity Canada says.

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Dying With Dignity Canada heading back to court to defend Canadians' end-of-life rights

For a second straight year, participating in court challenges has been a significant focus of Dying With Dignity Canada’s advocacy. To keep you up to date, we have assembled the following roundup on what’s happening in the major legal cases we’re working to influence.

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DWDC cheers creation of national Office of Palliative Care

Health Canada’s decision to create a federal Office of Palliative Care is a “promising step forward,” Dying With Dignity Canada (DWDC) says.

The announcement of a new federal bureau dedicated to improving access to end-of-life care appeared in the federal government’s new national framework on palliative care, which Health Minister Ginette Petitpas Taylor tabled in Parliament on Tuesday. The framework sets out goals for improving education about end-of-life care, creating supports for clinicians and caregivers, and expanding access for Canadians with life-limiting illnesses.

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In Case You Missed It: November 2018

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

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Marj's story: My husband got the death he wanted — but getting there wasn't easy

The option of a medically assisted death can be a source of hope and relief for Canadians who are suffering intolerably as the result of a severe medical condition. But certain elements of our assisted dying rules are harming the very people they're meant to protect.

Take Owen, an Okanagan Valley man who was diagnosed with a rare melanoma cell cancer in August 2016. Owen and his wife, Marj, successfully advocated for his right to medical assistance in dying (MAID) after some resistance from his medical team. 

But going through the rigorous legal and medical process of being assessed and, later, approved for an assisted death didn't bring Owen and his family total peace of mind. In fact, he faced an additional burden once he was found to be eligible: the law's requirement that he have the capacity to consent at the time of his MAID procedure. Owen, whose tumour was spreading quickly to his brain, was at high risk of losing capacity.

He spent his final days of life anxious and afraid that he would lose his right to an assisted death, his wife writes.

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Dying With Dignity Canada is now a registered human-rights charity

Dying With Dignity Canada (DWDC) is celebrating the return of its charitable status, setting the stage for the organization to become an even stronger defender of Canadians’ end-of-life rights.

DWDC recently learned that the Canada Revenue Agency (CRA) had approved its application to become a human-rights charity. As a result, DWDC can now issue tax receipts for donations made in support of its activities. The decision is retroactive to January 1, 2018.

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Dr. David Amies: Appalling stories out of Alberta highlight the harms of forced transfers for assisted dying

Public healthcare facilities that ban assisted-dying services on their premises and force sick and frail patients to go elsewhere to access their right to choice are failing to provide patient-centred care, writes Dr. David Amies.

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In Case You Missed It: October 2018

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

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Halifax’s Audrey Parker ‘changed the national conversation’ around assisted dying, Dying With Dignity Canada says

Audrey Parker, the Halifax woman who spent the last weeks of her life raising awareness about the challenges facing Canadians who have been assessed and approved for assisted dying, “changed the national conversation” around end-of-life choice, Dying With Dignity Canada says.

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Dr. David Amies: Acting as a witness to choice

Dr. David Amies, an active volunteer in Dying With Dignity Canada’s independent witness program, describes what it’s like to serve in this role and to help break down barriers facing Canadians who want an assisted death.

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What I learned from my client’s fight for an assisted death

Calgary lawyer Aman Sran has seen up close the barriers facing people who want to exercise their right to a peaceful death.

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In Case You Missed It: Summer 2018

In Case You Missed It is a round-up of news articles and commentaries featuring Dying With Dignity Canada speakers and stories. Did you miss summer's top news stories?

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How being approved for an assisted death gave new life to my mother in her final days

British Columbia’s Jane Hamilton lived a quiet and fiercely independent life. A lifelong housekeeper, part-time health care aide, and hospice volunteer, Jane charmed her loved ones with her signature Mad magazine sense of humour, her green thumb, and her love of art, crossword puzzles, dogs, and books.

After being diagnosed with lung cancer in 2017, Jane was given a devastating prognosis. She decided against treatment and opted instead to pursue medical assistance in dying (MAID). Once she was approved for MAID, Jane began to live her life with confidence, freedom, and renewed vigour despite her illness. For 11 months, she lived life completely on her terms, comforted by the knowledge that she was in control and could access MAID at any time.

In this special blog post, Jane’s daughter, Wendy, shares what their last year together was like, from Jane’s diagnosis to her medically assisted death.

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Trapped by ALS, my sister found freedom with a medically assisted death

For more than a year, Janis Clennett’s sister Sheila suffered from a variety of medical issues. Her many visits to the doctor and extended stays at the hospital had led to zero answers. Doctors simply couldn’t figure out why she kept falling or why she was having trouble breathing.

When the ALS diagnosis finally came a year and a half later, Sheila felt relief. Finally, she had answers. Finally, she had enough information to start planning for the end.

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Health Canada announces regulations for monitoring assisted dying

Health Canada has revealed its final regulations for a national system for monitoring medical assistance in dying (MAID).

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Sandra’s story: How I supported my son on his journey with assisted dying

Readers of the Dying With Dignity Canada blog will be familiar with Don Kent, the Ottawa-area man who candidly documented his quest for an assisted death in a seven-part series called Don’s Journey. Don gave us all an honest look into the end of his life, from his terminal cancer diagnosis to his frequent trips to the emergency room, and finally, to his medically assisted death on April 20.

In this very special blog post, Don's mother, Sandra, shares what it was like for her to support her son through every step of his journey.

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My wife lived life on her own terms. Her death was no different.

When Linda Levy of Toronto was diagnosed with chronic obstructive pulmonary disease in 2011, her health — and quality of life — deteriorated rapidly. Living with excruciating chronic pain and unable to do the things she loved, Linda began to explore her legal options and never once stopped advocating for herself. She became a member of Dying With Dignity Canada, she sent hundreds of letters to decision-makers in support of both the organization and assisted dying, and she refused to take "no" for an answer when her requests for an assisted death were denied by her doctor. In 2018, after months of trying, Linda was finally granted the right to have a medically assisted death. 

This is her story, as told by her beloved husband Lorne.

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In Case You Missed It: June 2018

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 June?

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"I am ready": A DWDC supporter shares a poem reflecting on life and the road ahead

In this special blog post, Ontario’s Diane Handcock shares an original poem, in which she reflects on a life well lived and describes a readiness for what's next.

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Dying With Dignity Canada announces largest gift in the organization’s 38-year history

Dying With Dignity Canada is set to receive the largest donation in the organization’s 38-year history, signalling the dawning of a new era for the movement to defend Canadians’ end-of-life rights.

The gift comes in the form of a bequest from the late David Jackson, a retired Vancouver entrepreneur and ardent supporter of Canadians’ right to a peaceful death. DWDC CEO Shanaaz Gokool called the legacy donation, which is valued at approximately $7 million, “nothing short of transformational.”

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My wife wanted her choice of a peaceful death to be shared. This is our story.

Winnipeg’s Jean Ayre believed passionately in a more loving and caring world, and throughout her 86 years of life, she did everything in her power to make that belief a reality. It’s no surprise, then, that on her final day — the day she said “yes” to a medically assisted death — Jean was surrounded by unconditional love and care in the form of her husband, their family, and 15 of their closest friends.

In this special blog post, Jean's husband, Don, shares the powerful story of their love, while recounting their final months together and the peace Jean felt when she made her final choice.

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Aging with dementia, through a granddaughter’s eyes

Dying With Dignity Canada board member Leigh Naturkach describes how a visit to her 92-year-old Opa led her to reflect on her relationships and her wishes for care at end of life.

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Court challenge against Ontario assisted dying policy goes to appeal

The top court in Ontario has agreed to hear an appeal into a legal challenge against a regulation that protects patient access to assisted dying in the province. 

In January, the Superior Court of Justice decided that the College of Physicians and Surgeons of Ontario’s (CPSO) policy on effective referral for assisted dying is constitutional and protects patients who request medical assistance in dying from being abandoned by clinicians who oppose it. The policy requires Ontario doctors who oppose assisted dying to refer patients who request it to a non-opposing provider or agency in a timely manner.

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'I tried my hardest to save my life': B.C. man's departing letter to loved ones

In August 2017, British Columbia’s Adam Ross fulfilled his choice to die with dignity — the last option left to free him from a prolonged, untreatable pain condition. He died alone, without anyone’s assistance, taking care to minimize the burden on the people he loved. His story reveals how much work still needs to be done to ensure that Canadians have fair alternatives in the face of unbearable suffering.

This is Adam's deeply moving and articulate departing letter to his loved ones.

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Adam's story: ‘The toughest of all places’

In August 2017, B.C.’s Adam Ross fulfilled his choice to die with dignity — the last option left to free him from a prolonged, untreatable pain condition. He died alone, without anyone’s assistance, taking care to minimize the burden on the people he loved. His story reveals how much work still needs to be done to ensure that Canadians have fair alternatives in the face of unbearable suffering.

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An Old Story About This New Place

Canadian poet Richard Harrison’s mother chose a medically-assisted death on July 5, 2017. His essay on his experience with her that day, “It is to that Bedside that I go,” was published on CBC’s Ideas and the Dying With Dignity Canada blog. In this piece, Richard begins the search for the meaning of that experience in a connection between it and a familiar story from the past.

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Jana Buhlmann: Why I'm speaking out about hospice care and assisted dying

In this post for the Dying With Dignity Canada blog, Jana Buhlmann, who supported her husband on his assisted dying journey last year, writes a thoughtful reflection on hospices that refuse to offer medical assistance in dying (MAID). She also contemplates how she and others might use their voices to effect change.

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In Case You Missed It: March/April 2018

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 March and April?

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Don’s journey: ‘This is Don Kent, signing off’

In January, Ottawa's Don Kent was diagnosed with terminal cancer. Faced with his own mortality at 56 years old, Don planned to pursue medical assistance in dying. He invited Dying With Dignity Canada supporters to follow along with him on his journey with cancer and his quest for a peaceful death.

Don accessed medical assistance in dying on April 20, 2018. He died in the arms of his wife, Barb, with his mother and sisters close by. In step with his plan, Deep Purple’s “Child in Time” played in the background during Don’s final moments.

This is the seventh and final entry of Don's Journey

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Dr. David Amies: No tug of war between palliative care and assisted dying

In his latest post for Dying With Dignity Canada’s blog, Dr. David Amies responds to an offensive, incendiary column written by National Post columnist Barbara Kay, in which she insults supporters of assisted dying and the thoughtful, compassionate clinicians who provide it. He also reiterates an important point that is at the heart of our work: palliative care and assisted dying are two essential options for Canadians at end of life, and the availability of one option doesn’t eliminate the need for the other. Ultimately, it’s up to each individual to decide which interventions are best for them when the time comes.

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Don’s journey: My fast-approaching end

In January, Ottawa's Don Kent was diagnosed with terminal cancer. Suddenly faced with his own mortality at 56 years old, Don plans to pursue medical assistance in dying. In this very special blog series, he invites Dying With Dignity Canada supporters to follow along with him on his journey with cancer and his quest for a peaceful death.

This is part six of Don's Journey.

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Don's journey: Another hospital visit

In January, Ottawa's Don Kent was diagnosed with terminal cancer. Suddenly faced with his own mortality at 56 years old, Don plans to pursue medical assistance in dying. In this very special blog series, he invites Dying With Dignity Canada supporters to follow along with him on his journey with cancer and his quest for a peaceful death.

This is part five of Don's Journey.

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Don's journey: The loss of my quality of life

In January, Ottawa's Don Kent was diagnosed with terminal cancer. Suddenly faced with his own mortality at 56 years old, Don plans to pursue medical assistance in dying. In this very special blog series, he invites Dying With Dignity Canada supporters to follow along with him on his journey with cancer and his quest for a peaceful death.

This is part four of Don's Journey.

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Sylvia’s story: How supporting my husband's choice has changed my life

The option of an assisted death can be a source of hope and relief for Canadians who are suffering intolerably as the result of a severe medical condition. But what happens to the loved ones of the people who make that choice? 

When it comes to grief and bereavement, everyone's path is different. However, we can learn a lot from the growing number of Canadians who have supported a family member or friend on a journey with assisted dying. Nova Scotia's Sylvia Henshaw has kindly agreed to share her reflections on the impact that her husband's choice has had on her life. It's a story, she says, that is still being written.

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A DWDC supporter shares his poetry on aging, memory loss, and planning ahead

In this special blog post, Calgary's Bob Canuel shares three original poems that dive into his personal experiences of getting older.

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In Case You Missed It: February 2018

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 February?

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Don's journey: What I've learned about assisted dying so far

In January, Ottawa's Don Kent was diagnosed with terminal cancer. Suddenly faced with his own mortality at 56 years old, Don plans to pursue medical assistance in dying. In this very special blog series, he invites Dying With Dignity Canada supporters to follow along with him on his journey with cancer and his quest for a peaceful death.

This is part three of Don's Journey.

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Don’s journey: My plans to access medical assistance in dying

In January, Ottawa's Don Kent was diagnosed with terminal cancer. Suddenly faced with his own mortality at 56 years old, Don plans to pursue medical assistance in dying. In this very special blog series, he invites Dying With Dignity Canada supporters to follow along with him on his journey with cancer and his quest for a peaceful death.

This is part two of Don's Journey.

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A personal support worker explains why she supports end-of-life choice

Lynn Steele has provided intimate care to many clients at end of life. In this blog post, she writes about how the suffering she has seen has inspired her to become a vocal supporter of end-of-life choice, and how the obstacles one client faced when trying to access assisted dying led her to become a passionate defender of a person's right to die.

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Rachel’s story: My sister was able to have the gentle, dignified death she wanted

When Rachel Williams' sister, Natalie, was diagnosed with late-stage cancer at the age of 55, she knew she wanted two things: She wanted to stay at home, surrounded by the love and support of her family, and she did not want to needlessly prolong her suffering. Despite resistance from doctors and some family members, Rachel — who has asked that her and her sister's real names not be used to protect their family's privacy — never wavered in her commitment to making sure Natalie was able to access her choice of a medically assisted death.

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Don's journey: My terminal cancer diagnosis

In January, Ottawa's Don Kent was diagnosed with terminal cancer. Suddenly faced with his own mortality at 56 years old, Don plans to pursue medical assistance in dying. In this very special blog series, he invites Dying With Dignity Canada supporters to follow along with him on his journey with cancer and his quest for a peaceful death.

This is part one of Don's Journey.

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It is to that bedside that I go

In this essay, Richard Harrison — the 2017 Governor General's Literary Award winner for poetry — vividly recalls his mother's choice after her cancer became terminal, of a medically assisted death, with him and his brother beside her.

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In Case You Missed It: January 2018

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 January?

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Ottawa can introduce 7 witnesses in Quebec challenge to Bill C-14, judge rules

Dying With Dignity Canada (DWDC) will be allowed to make arguments in the case of two Quebecers who have gone to court to challenge aspects of Canada’s federal assisted dying law, a judge has ruled.

However, Justice Christine Baudoin, of the Superior Court of Quebec, has refused to allow DWDC, along with five other groups that have been granted intervener status in the case, to introduce expert witnesses or other new evidence in the case.

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Ruling in Ontario assisted dying case ‘a victory for patients’ rights,’ Dying With Dignity Canada says

Dying With Dignity Canada is celebrating an Ontario court decision to uphold provincial regulation that requires doctors who oppose assisted dying to connect patients who request it with a non-objecting provider or agency.

The ruling comes in response to a court challenge against the College of Physicians and Surgeons of Ontario’s (CPSO) policy on effective referral for assisted dying. The applicants, led by the Christian Medical and Dental Society of Canada, claimed that the effective referral policy infringes upon the Charter rights of doctors who oppose medical assistance in dying (MAID).

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Priscilla’s last lesson: ‘No one has the right to stop us from dying’

Priscilla Cole had one last lesson to teach before she died.

A lifelong educator, she had devoted her career to instilling others with knowledge and the confidence to put it to good use. Among her pupils were the youngsters she taught at a private girls’ school in Toronto, the students she counselled at Seneca College, and the two sons she raised as a widowed mother, who are now doctors with grown children of their own.

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Paul's story: My wife's medically assisted death allowed her to "go home"

Kathleen Farago wanted nothing more than to finally "go home." She had suffered for decades with incurable medical conditions before being diagnosed with ovarian cancer on her 65th birthday. Kathy received the news with relief, cheekily calling the diagnosis her "get out of jail free" card. In this stunningly written blog post, her husband Paul Chefurka remembers their love story and his beloved Kathy's final weeks and moments before the peaceful death she had chosen with enormous strength and resolve.

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DWDC, CAMAP issue joint statement on forced transfers for assisted dying

Medical assistance in dying (MAID) is a constitutionally protected right in Canada. However, institutional barriers to accessing that right remain rife in the healthcare system. Obstructionist policies have created harmful delays and confusion for Canadians who are already suffering intolerably on account of their medical conditions.

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Sylvia's story: My husband's assisted death was peaceful and completely on his own terms

Dr. Doug Henshaw lived a life full of colour and adventure. He was a brilliant surgeon and a pioneer in life — and in death. His decision to access medical assistance in dying in September 2016 made him one of the first Nova Scotians to choose this newly available option. In this special blog post, Doug's wife, Sylvia, writes about his incredible life and choice.

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Colette’s story: My mother fought for her right to assisted dying. This is her legacy.

Not long after Canada passed its assisted dying law in June 2016, British Columbia's Mary John submitted her request and was approved. But her joy over being able to die on her own terms quickly turned to additional pain and frustration when hospice staff repeatedly obstructed her access, needlessly prolonging her life and her suffering.

After weeks of this active interference, Mary finally got her wish: She became one of the first British Columbians to access assisted dying — if not, the first. Throughout her weeks-long ordeal, she and her family never once stopped advocating for her right to a peaceful death. 

In this powerful blog post, Mary’s daughter, Colette, and her boyfriend, Dean, share how Mary's fight for choice and compassion was able to pave the way for patients and families in her community and province.

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I supported my husband on his assisted dying journey. This is what I learned.

In early November, Jana Buhlmann wrote a powerful entry for the DWDC blog about her husband, Chris, who had a medically assisted death in September 2017. In her follow-up post, Jana reflects on the resistance Chris faced from people in his life who opposed his end-of-life choice — and the lessons she learned about herself along the journey.

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Kate's story: My dad chose a medically assisted death. This is my celebration of his life and choice.

In late June, Mark Alexander died peacefully at his home, surrounded by his close family and friends. The British Columbia man was an avid outdoorsman, globe-trotter, and beer-league hockey player who loved all kinds of physical activity, but loved his family above all else. Despite his zest for life, Mark was always realistic about his prostate cancer diagnosis. After every treatment failed, he made the decision to access medical assistance in dying, and he did so with unwavering conviction. At his Celebration of Life reception, his daughter, Kate, presented a speech about his end-of-life choice. She has graciously allowed us to share her beautiful words on our blog.

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Maggie’s story: Will I be able to make the end-of-life choice I want?

Maggie Bristow can no longer bear to breathe because every breath sets her body afire with pain. The Ottawa woman has fibromyalgia and spinal stenosis, along with a host of other medical conditions, and wants nothing more than to be able to access medical assistance in dying. Physically unable to write her own story, Maggie spoke with Dying With Dignity Canada volunteer Liana Brittain, who helped Maggie put her excruciating pain into words.

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Kathy’s story: My second wife’s assisted death brought peace and joy. But my first wife’s death still haunts me.

Kathy watched Kim, her wife of 25 years, die a "soul-destroying" and traumatic death in 2014 — just two years before Canada passed its assisted dying law.

A few years later, Kathy watched as her second wife, Lynne, was diagnosed with a terminal disease, but this time, assisted dying was newly legal and available in Canada. The contrast between Kim's death and Lynne's was stark, Kathy writes.

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Jana's story: My husband’s assisted death spared him the suffering he feared most

When Jana Buhlmann's husband, Chris, celebrated his 41st birthday, it was a bittersweet occasion because they both knew it would be his last. The very next day, Chris was scheduled to have his medically assisted death. He struggled with the decision, but he knew his grim prognosis and the imminent intolerable suffering on the road ahead. Assisted dying offered him another, more compassionate path instead, Jana writes.

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How one family’s assisted dying story effected real change in their community

In August, Debra Westbrook and her family spoke out in their local newspaper and on our blog about the obstruction their father faced in his months-long struggle to access assisted dying at their local hospital. Less than two months later, that same hospital made a major change to prevent the same thing from happening again. In this special update, Debra writes about how she and her family were able to inspire change in their community — and makes a call for others to do the same.

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Denise's story: My husband's medically assisted death was a compassionate gift

A few months after Denise's husband, Ed, was diagnosed with cardiac amyloidosis, he began to feel "trapped" in his body. Ed, who had lost the ability to move or do the things he loved, was so relieved to discover that he qualified for a medically assisted death. In this blog post, Denise tells the story of her husband's devastating disease and the days and weeks leading up to the peaceful death he so desired.

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Video: What it's like to provide assisted dying for the first time

Many recent documentaries and magazine articles have delved into what it’s like to support a family member who's accessed their right to assisted dying.

But fewer have explored what it’s like for the handful of doctors and nurse practitioners in Canada who are involved in providing medical assistance in dying (MAID). Their insights provide another side to the story, and they are essential to our understanding of how the right to assisted dying is changing the way Canadians experience the dying process.

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Liana Brittain: How assisted dying has changed the way Canadians experience death

The passage of Canada's medical assistance in dying law has transformed the way some Canadians experience the dying process. In her latest blog post, Liana Brittain reflects on this change and reminisces about how she and her husband, Paul, planned for his assisted death. 

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Judy's story: I support advance requests for assisted dying because my husband's last years were horrifying

When Brian was diagnosed with an aggressive form of Parkinson's, he and his wife, Judy, read everything they could about his disease and his prognosis. They wanted to be ready and to know what to expect. Sadly, nothing could have prepared them for a reality that was far worse than they had ever anticipated. In this blog post, Judy, who asked that her real name not be used to protect her privacy, writes honestly about her husband's horrifying last years and why she wishes his right to end-of-life choice had been respected.

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Debra's story: My father was forced to suffer for months before he could access assisted dying

It was a horrifying emotional and physical roller coaster that never seemed to end. Austin, an Ontario-based man whose last name has been withheld for privacy reasons, first made the request to die with medical assistance in late 2016, at the age of 89. Time and time again, his access was cruelly denied and obstructed by medical professionals. His daughter, Debra, writes about her father's months-long struggle to access his final wish.

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Liana Brittain: Dying With Dignity Canada was the lifeline I needed after my husband’s assisted death

For Liana Brittain, the days, weeks, and months after her husband, Paul, accessed his right to a peaceful death have been both painful and surreal. Unsure of where to go for support, she turned to Dying With Dignity Canada and ended up finding new purpose and life after loss.

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AB, plaintiff in landmark Ontario assisted dying case, dies at 77

It is with both relief and sorrow that we announce the passing of AB, the Ontario woman whose court action has helped to clarify Canada’s assisted dying law.

AB died last week, with medical assistance, after living for more than 30 years with an excruciating form of osteoarthritis. She was 77 years old.

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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.

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Noreen Speaks: B.C.'s Noreen Campbell shares how she set the date for her assisted death

As Noreen Campbell’s symptoms worsened and her anxiety grew, she began thinking about setting a date for her medically assisted death.

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My husband wanted his choice to be part of his legacy. This is our story.

Since Canada's assisted dying law passed one year ago, there has been only one confirmed case of a medically assisted death on the tiny province of Prince Edward Island. It was Paul Couvrette's.

Before embarking on his "new adventure," Paul asked his beloved wife, Liana, to share the story of their love and how he chose to die completely on his own terms.

Liana is keeping her promise.

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Day 3: Court challenge to the CPSO’s policy of effective referral for assisted dying

Dying With Dignity Canada made oral arguments Thursday during the third and final day of hearings into the court challenge against the College of Physicians and Surgeons of Ontario’s (CPSO) policy on effective referral for assisted dying.

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Day 2: Court challenge to the CPSO’s policy of effective referral for assisted dying

Dying With Dignity Canada was back in court on Wednesday, June 14 for the second day of hearings in the court challenge to the College of Physicians and Surgeons of Ontario’s (CPSO) effective referral policy.

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Tom's story: My mother fought for and won the choice of a peaceful death

Renate Morris was told time and time again that she would not qualify for an assisted death. But instead of accepting that her fate was out of her hands, she empowered herself and fought for what she knew was her Charter right. In this special blog post, her son Thomas and daughter-in-law Elaine write about her incredible journey towards the peaceful and dignified death she wanted.

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David's story: How my mother's desperate decision led me to support Dying With Dignity Canada

One year ago, on an early Sunday morning, David J. Adams’ mother made a desperate decision in the hopes of ending her unbearable suffering. It shouldn’t have had to come to that, and that’s why Canadians need Dying With Dignity Canada, he writes.

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Life on the locked unit: An employee at a long-term care facility shares why she supports advance requests

Recently, Nina Lee — one of Dying With Dignity Canada's monthly donors — offered to share her powerful perspective with us. As an employee at a long-term care facility who works primarily with individuals living with Alzheimer's, Nina (not her real name) has been confronted by the tragedy of Alzheimer's disease time and time again. Now, she's using her heartbreaking experiences to speak out in support of advance requests.

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B.C.'s Noreen Campbell reflects on her choice in new video series

British Columbia's Noreen Campbell recognized the value and the power of sharing her story.

Before she had the peaceful death she so desired on January 12, the long-time nurse made it a priority in her final months of life to share her perspectives on planning for end of life, requesting assisted dying and the country’s new medical aid in dying legislation. In the weeks before she died, she did interviews with the Victoria Times Colonist, The Globe and Mail and with CBC Radio host Dr. Brian Goldman. She was candid and honest until the very end, offering an intimate and rare glimpse into her journey.

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Why medically assisted dying is not suicide

Assisted dying, physician-assisted death, medical assistance in dying. These are some of the terms our spokespeople use when they give a presentation or interview about Canadians’ right to die with the help of a doctor.

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Dr. Sutherland's tough choice

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Dr. Donald Sutherland with daughter Barbara at the Sunnybrook Veterans Centre in Toronto.

A man of high principles

During my father’s career he was known for his determination to raise the profession of chiropractic in Canada to the highest standard. He was an exceptional orator and journalist. He was the first president of the Canadian Memorial Chiropractic College.

He believed in collaborative efforts with the medical profession. This, his final decision about his own death, has become part of his legacy. One way for me to honour him is to share the story with others who may be helped by knowing that it is always their choice to accept or reject a pacemaker, to replace a battery, or to deactivate a device. It is a life-sustaining treatment. It is a treatment with great potential to improve and lengthen life. It also may extend life beyond where the patient wants to go.

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Nagui's story

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What does it mean to have a rich life? Nagui Morcos considered that he had a rich life: a life full of music, fine food and wine, chocolate and cheese, theatre, fashion, dance, motorcycles, travel, laughter, a good education and a rewarding career (including the company of a giant cow named Beulah), volunteerism, patriotism, the love and support of friends and family, and a passionate love affair with his wife, Jan Crowley.

Most people would readily agree that these wonderful things are all markers of a "rich life," but what is most remarkable about Nagui, and a true indication of his endlessly positive spirit, is that he considered his life to be rich, despite living for 18 years with Huntington’s Disease, a devastating, terminal, neurodegenerative disease that had taken the life of his father, Fouad. 

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Linda's Story

Waterloo's Linda Jarrett

"I do feel strongly that if possible I want to be in charge of the end of my life," says Linda Jarrett, who was diagnosed with multiple sclerosis in 1998.

From diagnosis until the present time, Linda has been what is termed secondary progressive, without relapses or remissions. "I have been on a steady decline in terms of my mobility," she says. She can no longer walk, even with the aid of a walker, and relies on a travel scooter to remain mobile.

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