In Case You Missed It: April 2017

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 April?

DWDC’s CEO, Shanaaz Gokool, spoke to the Ontario Legislature's Standing Committee on Finance and Economic Affairs during its hearings on Bill 84. In her testimony, she discusses why patients must have a right to an effective referral for assisted dying.


Ontario Health Minister Eric Hoskins announced that the province will soon have a new care coordination service where patients can reach out directly to staff who will then connect them with MAID providers. However, concerns still remain. CEO Shanaaz Gokool explains:

"If you're in a facility and they're refusing to assess you, and refusing to help you, and you can't help yourself, who's going to do that for you?"

DWDC Physicians Advisory Council member, Dr. Chantal Perrot, spoke to the Globe and Mail about challenges with the current referral system in Ontario:

“I’ve had a couple of patients who made suicide attempts because they were concerned that they weren’t going to be referred and they couldn’t stand it anymore,” said Chantal Perrot, a Toronto family doctor who says about half of the patients she has seen for medical-aid-in-dying assessments could not get a timely referral. These people are frail, they’re terrified ... they are wanting to at least have an assessment for this procedure and [they’re] willing to take it into their own hands, or try to.”

Shanaaz Gokool and CARP COO Wanda Morris spoke to Zoomer Radio about expanding assisted dying rules in Quebec.


Thousands of Canadians will not qualify for MAID under the federal government’s assisted dying legislation. This Maclean’s article explores the impact of this on those with mental illness and psychological suffering.

DWDC board member, Dr. Sue Hughson, spoke to The Vancouver Sun about the current system in B.C, including DWDC’s involvement in witnessing patient request forms for MAID:

“For many people who are quite elderly or underserviced or compromised in other ways, or who don’t have a large body of friends and family to call on, or who may have people who object to their choice, we’re there.”

PJ McGrath accessed an assisted death in July 2016. On his final day, he reflected on his life and his decision to die on his own terms.

A look at progress on MAID guidelines across Canada, including a mention of DWDC’s Shine A Light campaign.

CBC reported that over 1,300 Canadians have accessed MAID. Rob Rollins accessed his right to an assisted death on January 6th. In this article, his husband, John MacTavish, explains what that day was like, the journey leading up to his decision, and the final message Rob wanted people to know:

"We are fortunate enough to live in a province that allows medical assistance in dying. I've always been an advocate of this and now I have the privilege to attain it with deepest conversations and the support of my wonderful husband."

Although 1,300 Canadians have accessed MAID, many individuals will not qualify due to the restrictive eligibility criteria that requires one’s death to be “reasonably foreseeable.” Julia Lamb, the plaintiff who is challenging this criteria, spoke to CBC about her concerns:

"I feel quite abandoned by [the law]," she says. "I could really become, like, trapped in a state of intolerable suffering and because [death] is not reasonably foreseeable, I would not have an opportunity to alleviate that suffering."

Adam Maier-Clayton, a 27-year-old man from Windsor, ended his life in April. Maier-Clayton suffered for years from mental illnesses that caused him extreme pain and suffering. In the months since the passing of Bill C-14, he was very outspoken about the need to expand eligibility to include the qualifying criteria laid out in the Carter decision. DWDC Physicians Advisory Council member, Dr. Ellen Wiebe, spoke to Sandra Martin about his case:

“It was a distressing situation,” she recalled. “He suffered so much, and he wasn’t able to have a good death.”

More on Adam Maier-Clayton, with comments from CEO Shanaaz Gokool:

“We can’t arbitrarily discriminate against people because we are uncomfortable,” Ms. Gokool said. “We have to find a way to understand what are the parameters [through which] people with severe mental illness may be included in medical assistance in dying.”

Adam spoke to the Globe and Mail about choice for those suffering from mental illness in May 2016. You can read the original article here:

Andre Picard reflected on the need to respect the constitutional rights of those with mental illness.

CEO Shanaaz Gokool spoke to CBC’s As It Happens about Adam’s death and the need for further discussion about MAID and mental illness.


Shanaaz Gokool also spoke to 1310 News Ottawa about Adam’s impact.


Additional thoughts on the death of Adam Maier-Clayton.

Dr. Ryan Hoskins explains the divide between Alberta Health Services (AHS) and Covenant Health, a separate board within AHS that is run by the Catholic Bishops of Alberta. While not unique to Alberta, patients being treated at publicly-funded, faith-based institutions are being transferred elsewhere to access MAID. Dr. Jonathan Reggler, chair of DWDC’s Physicians Advisory Council, comments on why this is problematic:

“The process of medical assistance in dying involves first confirming that a patient has capacity, then waiting a minimum of 10 days, and then confirming on the desired day of the procedure that the patient has capacity and continues to seek the procedure,” he says. “Realistically, these patients are frequently in an extremely fragile situation. To move them at any point during this process can be a tremendous burden. It can undermine the entire intention of dying with dignity.”

CEO Shanaaz Gokool spoke to Global’ s Focus Ontario program about Bill 84.

Video (skip to 5:00; Shanaaz’s segment begins at 16:00):

New hospice beds will soon be available in Comox Valley. However, the hospice that will receive them does not allow MAID onsite. Some advocates are calling for the hospice to uncouple from St. Joseph’s General Hospital, the institution that runs the hospice. Dr. Reggler speaks to this issue:

“Hospices are not medical-assistance-in-dying destinations. We’re not talking about sending people to hospice for [medical assistance in dying]. But if somebody is in hospice, they ought to have the right to have a medically assisted death in that place. What we’re asking Island Health to do is make sure that all six beds are in a place where that is permitted,” Reggler said.

Nurse practitioners in Ontario can now provide MAID. Up until now, nurses in the province were unable to prescribe controlled drugs and substances, including the ones used in MAID deaths. With nurse practitioners able to participate fully, people in remote areas of the province who rely on nurse practitioners for primary care may have better access to MAID.

Daniel William Haggerty accessed an assisted death in December 2016.  His daughters spoke to TVO’s The Agenda about his decision.


Physicians Advisory Council Member, Dr. James Downar, was also featured on TVO earlier this week to discuss the current law in Canada and where it falls short.


Past board chair Jim Stephenson spoke to CBC’s BC Almanac on assisted dying in British Columbia.

67 Nova Scotians have applied for an assisted death but only 31 actually received MAID. Nova Scotia Chapter Coordinator, Sheilia Sperry, comments on what is going on locally as well as her motivation for getting involved in the issue.

Sylvia Henshaw shared the story of her husband, Douglas, one of the 31 Nova Scotians who accessed MAID:

"There was so much love and respect and dignity and peace in the room. And I think to die surrounded by that is what we all want."

Article and video:

Kirsten Thomson of Northern Health, one of five health authorities in B.C, explains her role as a MAID care coordinator in her region:

"When we look at planning, it's really important, obviously, that we're involving the patient and what their wishes are," said Thomson. "We consider whether they would prefer to have it administered in their home or whether they would prefer to have it administered elsewhere."

As mentioned in a previous “recent news,” Quebec is exploring the issue of advance consent.  This piece shares the viewpoint of politician Francois Bonnardel, whose mother is suffering from Alzheimer’s disease, as well as quotes from CEO Shanaaz Gokool:

“There is a provincial government that is willing to address this critical issue that so many Canadians, 80 per cent, support advance consent for a diagnosis like dementia.” Shanaaz Gokool, CEO of Dying with Dignity Canada, told CTV News.

Video and article:

Adam Maier-Clayton’s father reflects on his son’s death:

“People in that condition, life is not precious,” he said. “Life is a daily, living hell.”

The federal government released an interim update on MAID in Canada during the first six months after Bill C-14 passed.

DWDC published a blog post with five major takeaways from the report.

CEO Shanaaz Gokool comments on the need for more MAID statistics in this article in The Globe and Mail:

“How many people have asked for assisted dying whose family member has already lost capacity because of Alzheimer’s?” she said. “How many people who’ve asked [for an assisted death] have a mental illness where they’re not imminently dying and don’t qualify?”

Co-chair of the Special Joint Committee on Physician-Assisted Dying, MP Rob Oliphant spoke with CBC’s Power and Politics about the federal government’s MAID statistics.


The Council of Canadian Academies released information on three panels that will review mature minors, mental illness and advance consent.

The full list of panel members can be found here:

DWDC is troubled with certain elements of this panel. Harvey Schipper was appointed chair of the working group on advance consent, despite having once likened the arguments put forward by assisted dying advocates to those the Nazi regime used to justify their eugenics program and the Holocaust. He made the comments in a June 2014 op-ed published in The Globe and Mail. Please see the attached press release (also available on our website), where DWDC calls for clarification from Schipper about these controversial past statements on assisted dying.

Not only does Harvey Schipper's appointment as chair raise concerns about the impartiality of the review process, but DWDC has additional concerns about whether Canadians will have the opportunity to share their lived experiences with the council.

Katherine Meaney Svec has been a pivotal part of the Dying With Dignity Canada movement for the past decade. Earlier this month, she was honoured by Volunteer Toronto for her years of dedication to the cause.

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