First Person Witness Council

Liana Brittain

Chair, DWDC First Person Witness Council

Liana was an elementary school teacher for 32 years before chronic illness forced her into early retirement. She is a published author and speaker whose recent works include MAiD Musings – A Widow’s Reflections and A Gentle Warrior. Liana also worked for the Eastern Ontario LHIN as a chronic pain self-management program facilitator. Liana writes her own blog “MAiD Together – A Communal Voice.”

Liana supported her husband, Paul B. Couvrette, through his journey with terminal cancer and palliative care to his medically assisted death. Paul was the first medical assistance in dying (MAID) patient on Prince Edward Island. Paul asked that his name and medical history be used to educate others about MAID and that Liana share their story. It was after Paul’s death that Liana became involved with DWDC as a volunteer in several areas including writing blog articles, peer support, serving on the Disability Advisory Council (DAC), and as chair of the First Person Witness Council (FPWC). She actively collaborated with DWDC in the creation of the FPWC, which is an advisory council representing the needs and issues of patients and their loved ones. Liana, who suffers from inflammatory osteoarthritis and fibromyalgia, as well as other comorbid conditions, has recently learned that she will be eligible for MAID in the next few years. She now represents both the loved one/advocate and patient sides of the MAID triangle.


Ed Borchardt

Recorder for the Advocacy Standing Committee, DWDC First Person Witness Council

My name is Ed Borchardt and I live in Lockport, Manitoba. My working background was in telecommunications and operational management, and I’m currently retired. I believe having the current medical assistance in dying (MAID) option for people facing their end-of-life decision-making is only a good fundamental starting point. Recognizing my firsthand MAID witness experience obtained over the past year with my wife and mother, plus previous experience with my father prior to a MAID option being available, I believe the next logical step to enhancing MAID legislation is to establish an advance request opportunity, dispose of death not reasonably foreseeable barriers, and enable effective non-medical resource referrals, so I am volunteering with Dying With Dignity Canada's FPWC to help enable these advancements for MAID.


Sandy Doyle

Reporter for MAID Grief Standing Committee, DWDC First Person Witness Council

Hello, I’m Sandy. I’m a wife, a mother of two grown sons, and a Registered Nurse who has worked in the Toronto area for many years. I have supported people confronting end-of-life struggles in my career, most recently with hospice, and I have also experienced those struggles personally in caring for my elderly mother after she succumbed to a stroke in 2019. In every instance, I gained invaluable experience and learned firsthand about the fears, regrets, hopes, and wishes of those facing the end of their lives. This includes witnessing the relief and comfort experienced by some upon learning that if things got ‘so bad’, they could choose this other option – medical assistance in dying. After ‘being there’ for my own mother when she chose a medically assisted death, I experienced firsthand the ‘double-edged sword’ of losing a loved one in this way and the uniqueness of that grief — something I couldn’t appreciate until it touched me personally.

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Jenny Hasselman

Secretary, DWDC First Person Witness Council

Hi, I'm Jenny and I am incredibly honoured to be part of this brave group of First Person Witnesses, as we all work toward building pathways to effect change and help countless others. My journey with the MAID program began in July 2018, through the death of my Mom. The MAID program is one I am very grateful for, however it brings unique challenges to everyone involved, especially as we are the first generation to have this option. My hope for the FPWC is to share my personal experiences and perspectives, not only as a support to others but as part of a tangible way for us all to learn ways to effectively navigate and evolve how we approach the MAID path. I promise to always listen first, lead when I should, and work as a team toward our common goals. My thanks to everyone at DWDC for this opportunity to serve on the FPWC.


Sylvia Henshaw

Communications Officer, DWDC First Person Witness Council

I am a retired Registered Nurse from Berwick, Nova Scotia. My interest in MAID began nearly four years ago, when Bill C-14 was being debated. At that time, Douglas, my husband of 40 years, was living with advanced Parkinson’s Disease, and desperately wanted to be a candidate for MAID. In September 2016, after a nearly three-month wait, he got his wish. Since that time, I have frequently  spoken and written about our experience, and know that what I had to say helped several others achieve death their way. The First Person Witness Council is the perfect forum to bring together those who have experience with MAID, and who wish to help others with similar interests.

I look forward to being part of a team that will provide folks with the information and confidence they need in order to choose their end-of-life option.


Jack Hopkins

Researcher for the Advocacy Standing Committee, DWDC First Person Witness Council

Jack Hopkins is completing his Master of Digital Media at Ryerson University. He's worked (in Canada and overseas) in journalism, the federal government, public relations, entrepreneurship, education, and acting over the last few years. 

He loves volunteering for causes he believes in. MAID is certainly one of those, as it touched him personally in 2017, when it allowed his grandmother to carefully plan out her assisted death and peacefully end her suffering on her own terms. Having seen what the alternative would inflict upon her, Jack and his family have remained strong MAID supporters ever since. 

Jack is eager to help Dying With Dignity Canada, and to advance the work of ensuring everyone can control their life and their suffering.


Denise Keep

Ad Hoc Member, DWDC First Person Witness Council

I am a retired administrative assistant having worked for a large Canadian labour organization for 28 years, retiring in 2002.

My husband Rick and I were married for 40 memorable years. Fourteen of those years were a struggle for both of us, dealing with his Primary Progressive Multiple Sclerosis (PPMS). After a two-year battle for access to an assisted death Rick passed away on November 13, 2018 with the assistance of MAID.

I am looking forward to contributing to and learning from the First Person Witness Council. My sincere hope is that we can make a difference to those who are requesting MAID but being denied because of the wording of the current law.


Sue McCaffrey

Reporter of the Advocacy Standing Committee, DWDC First Person Witness Council

Sue McCaffrey is a retired lawyer; she and her husband - another retired lawyer - live in Toronto. Sue's professional career was predominantly in the corporate world, in governmental and regulatory bodies. At retirement, she was Vice President, General Counsel and Secretary to the Board of Legal Aid Ontario.

Sue's interest in Dying With Dignity Canada came into being when her courageous mother-in-law chose death with dignity after being diagnosed with incurable ovarian cancer. The family supported this decision, and Sue experienced both the benefits and the challenges that ensued. Sue's goal is to help make this path available to all who need and want it.


Tamara Nazaruk

Recorder for the MAID Grief Standing Committee, DWDC First Person Witness Council

My name is Tamara Nazaruk and I am a legal assistant from Campbell River, British Columbia on Vancouver Island. I am married with three grown children. I have lived in Campbell River for 26 years and am an active community volunteer in our local
minor hockey association.

My father had liver cancer and accessed his right to MAID in his home with my mom, brother, husband and myself present. It was his "golden ticket" as he described it and peaceful and perfect under the circumstances. Access to MAID gave him control and dignity over an uncontrollable situation. In the weeks that followed I felt a desire to reach out and help whoever else may
be going through this particular journey.

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Chelsea Peddle

Reporter for MAID Grief Standing Committee, DWDC FIRST PERSON WITNESS COUNCIL

Hello, my name is Chelsea Peddle. I’m a mum to two little ones ages four and seven in Victoria, B.C. I started my career in the non-profit sector delivering social justice programs with youth, then worked for nine years in the public service in youth violence prevention and maternal health policy. In 2017, I had a calling to shift my focus to the other end of the lifespan, so I began supporting individuals and families to prepare for end of life.

Though I’ve worked as an end-of-life educator and guide for a couple years, MAID only recently became a pivotal part of my life. In June 2019, my mum chose to have a medically assisted death after living gracefully with brain cancer for a brief time. Since then, I’ve come to understand that it is possible for two opposing things to be true at the same time:

1) I did not want my mum to have an assisted death, AND

2) Being a part of her MAID journey was one of the most transformative, joyful and profoundly loving experiences of my life.

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Ron Posno

Ad Hoc Member, DWDC First Person Witness Council

Ron has dementia - formally assessed with Minor Cognitive Impairment in August 2016.

Test pilot, school superintendent, skier, scuba diver, wanderer - take your pick. Ron has done them all. He’s most proud of teaching children with special needs and winning a national award for curriculum innovation. Passionate, provocative and profound, he has lectured and taught in universities and colleges across Canada and the United States. And as a motivational speaker for professional and business associations, he promoted change: how to create it; how to manage it; how to profit from it. Now his
attention is focused upon caregivers, dementia friendly communities, and MAID. For more information visit www.posno.ca.

(Photo credit: Monique Wiendels)


Azadeh Quenneville

Ad hoc member, DWDC FIRST PERSON WITNESS COUNCIL

Azadeh Quenneville was born and raised in Tehran, Iran. She immigrated to California in 1977. After completing her studies, she met a young Canadian man named Ghislain Quenneville. For two-and-a-half years, Ghislain and Azadeh wrote letters to each other. Ghislain was living in Elliot Lake, Ontario during this time.

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Charles van Duren

Recorder of the Education Standing Committee, DWDC FIRST PERSON WITNESS COUNCIL

I was born in the Netherlands in 1946, and my family immigrated to Canada in 1960. I grew up in Guelph, Ontario, and met my wife Judith at the University of Guelph in 1969. The next 10 years were described on my resume as providing “varied experience.” This included homesteading in Quebec, skiing at Whistler, and learning construction trades. We returned to university in 1981 to study computer science. This led us to Alberta's Athabasca University.

 

On retirement in 2007 we moved to Lower Economy, Nova Scotia, on the shores of the Minas Basin. Our journey with MAID started when Judith was diagnosed with very advanced metastasized lung cancer in February 2017. With no hope of recovery, and with her body failing rapidly, Judith applied for MAID. Her request was granted. She was afraid that any of the cancer lesions could incapacitate her before she could give active assent to The Big Needle, as she called it, but she was able to do so and died peacefully on May 2, 2018.

 

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