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?

Audrey Parker’s cruel choice made national and international headlines in early November.

The Halifax woman, who opted to die earlier than she wanted to despite her desire to enjoy one last Christmas, spent the final weeks of her life speaking out about the challenges facing Canadians who have been Assessed and Approved for assisted dying.

The Guardian published a piece on how Audrey’s battle for greater autonomy in her medically assisted death reignited a debate over Canada’s assisted dying legislation. DWDC CEO Shanaaz Gokool commented on the anguish Audrey faced at the end of her life:

“She was worried about how this cancer had ravaged her body so aggressively that if she waited too long, she would lose capacity and then she would be completely denied the right to have an assisted death. And then she would die in a manner she knew will be horrible.”

The Washington Post published a similar piece on how Audrey Parker’s campaign thrust Canada’s assisted dying law under a microscope. The article looks at the restrictive nature of the law and the complexities associated with allowing advance requests for assisted dying. DWDC CEO Shanaaz Gokool commented on Audrey’s cruel choice:

“It’s one of the tragic ironies of our law.”

Shanaaz spoke with The Chronicle Herald’s John DeMont about Audrey Parker’s legacy and final days. She was joined by the Chair of DWDC’s Board, former Senator Jim Cowan.

“We told [the Department of] Justice that every month that goes by without amending the law means there are more Audreys out there having to make these kinds of decisions,” says Gokool.

In this strongly-worded opinion column, The Globe and Mail’s André Picard reflected on the bureaucracy that Audrey Parker encountered at the end of her life.

“When Canadians opt for a dignified death, we should be comforting them – not choking them and their health-care providers to death with red tape.”

The political responses to Audrey’s dying plea were incredibly mixed.

The Star Halifax compiled the diverse reactions, from Justice Minister Jody Wilson-Raybould’s insistence that there are no plans to amend the assisted dying law, to a Nova Scotian MP who supports Audrey’s advocacy.

The Hamilton Spectator published an editorial about Audrey Parker with a clear position: when it comes to having a good death, we still have a long way to go.

“Everyone knew the law wasn’t perfect, that it would need updating and adjusting. The time has come for that to happen.”

Hundreds of people — including DWDC CEO Shanaaz Gokool — gathered together on November 9 for Audrey’s Celebration of Life in Halifax.

The event was covered by the Canadian Press and The Star Halifax.

Looking for more Audrey Parker coverage? Click here to read last month’s edition of ICYMI.

The Globe and Mail obtained a confidential early draft of the advance requests portion of the report that the Council of Canadian Academies (CCA) has been working on for the past two years.

The CCA is the independent not-for-profit organization that was tasked by the federal government in 2016 to study the future of assisted dying. This leaked section of the report examines the ethics and complexities of advance requests for assisted dying.

CBC Edmonton’s Jennie Russell has continued her excellent and comprehensive coverage on the harms of allowing Alberta’s Covenant Health to ban assisted-dying services on the premises of its facilities. One of her latest pieces on the issue of forced transfers focused on calls for Alberta’s Health Minister Sarah Hoffman to end Covenant Health’s assisted dying policy.

DWDC board member Bradley Peter responded to the reveal that Sarah Hoffman was informed in 2016 of the impacts of Covenant’s policy on sick and suffering patients and their loved ones. He urged Hoffman and her government to “immediately rectify” the situation:

"Now that we find out that actually, for two years, this policy has been harming patients, their families, and even the care providers, there is really no excuse at this point as to why this hasn't been dealt with yet. Not a single (other) Albertan should be forced to leave a publicly funded health-care facility to access their human right of medical aid in dying.”

In early November, CBC Edmonton’s Jennie Russell wrote a piece on the indignities suffered by 72-year-old Bob Hergott, who was forced to sign his medical assistance in dying (MAID) request form in a bus shelter and to take a cab to a different hospital for his procedure. These forced transfers took place because the Covenant Health-managed hospital where he had been a patient for five years refused to help him on-site.

“He couldn’t talk, he couldn’t verbally scream or he would have.”

Additional forced-transfers coverage by CBC Edmonton’s Jennie Russell can be found by clicking the following links:

University of Alberta law professors Eric M. Adams and Ubaka Ogbogu wrote a thoughtful opinion piece for The Globe and Mail on forced transfers and how we might balance human rights in cases of MAID.

“Guided by religion, faith-based institutions provide a great deal of health care in Canada. Guided by the principles of constitutional law, governments should insist that those institutions keep their vulnerable patients off the sidewalk, and provide their patients the health-care they are lawfully entitled to receive.”

Global News also ran coverage on the issue of forced transfers in Alberta.

A Jan. 2018 video featuring DWDC board member Bradley Peter was published alongside this piece.

Looking for more coverage on forced transfers in Alberta? Click here to read last month’s edition of ICYMI.

CBC’s Cross Country Checkup profiled the people outside of the healthcare profession who support assisted dying patients at the end of their lives. One of DWDC’s volunteer independent witnesses, Amanda La Rougetel, was featured in the piece:

“I can perform this very simple required task and I like to do it. I feel like it’s a service.”

Dying With Dignity Canada was thrilled and honoured to receive The Mo Davies Award for Excellence in Fundraising by a Small Organization at the 2018 AFP Philanthropy Awards. We extend a heartfelt thank you to DWDC board member Leigh Naturkach for nominating us and to all of our donors, volunteers, and supporters who make everything we do possible.

Coverage of the awards luncheon, including descriptions of the eight other inspiring winners, can be found on Samaritan Mag.

Our AFP Philanthropy Awards video, which features board members Jim Cowan and Dr. Chantal Perrot; the children of George and Shirley Brickenden; and the Chair of our Patrons Council, Richard W. Ivey, can be found here. (Please note that this video was made before DWDC received charitable status!)

DWDC is deeply concerned by Delta Hospice’s continued refusal to allow assisted-dying services on its premises.

Patients in their most vulnerable time of need should not be forced to choose between medical assistance in dying and hospice care.

A Quebec judge has refused to give the green light to a class action on medical assistance in dying.

(This Le Devoir article is in French, but you can use an online tool like this one to translate the piece to the language of your choice.)

The Ottawa Citizen published an update on the number of MAID deaths in Ontario. According to the province’s chief coroner, 2,118 people died with medical assistance between June 2016 and September 2018.

Almost one per cent of deaths in Ontario now involve medical assistance.

People seeking medical assistance in dying can now call Saskatchewan’s 811 health line.

You can learn more in this CBC News Saskatchewan piece.

Our friend, law professor Jocelyn Downie, was one of two Nova Scotians honoured with an Order of Canada in November.

Downie, who teaches at Dalhousie University, was recognized for helping frame the way Canada treats people who want MAID. The entire DWDC team extends heartfelt congratulations to Jocelyn for this well-deserved recognition!

The latest issue of UofTMed Magazine takes a thought-provoking look at death and dying. Noteworthy articles in the issue include:

Feminist activist and lifelong Dying With Dignity Canada supporter Helen Levine of Ottawa lived and died “on her own terms.”

Read her beautiful life story in this Ottawa Citizen piece.

Did you hear the big news? Dying With Dignity Canada is officially a registered human-rights charity! That means we can now issue tax receipts for donations made in support of our activities — and the decision is retroactive to January 1, 2018!

Read our press release on this game-changing announcement here.

You can also watch a replay of our webcast announcing the big news here.

Have a question about the return of our charitable status? Click here for our charitable status Q&A.

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