In Case You Missed It: October 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 October?

Although not quite in October, Dying With Dignity Canada hosted a massively successful event, Challenges to Choice, on November 2— World Right to Die Day. In total, nearly 100 people attended the event in-person and 500 tuned in online. Thank you to everyone who attended our biggest event yet!

If you missed the event, you can watch a recording of it here. (Note: This link will expire in early December so make sure you watch it now!)

DWDC has been named an official intervener in a court case challenging the constitutionality of both the federal and Quebec assisted dying laws. DWDC CEO Shanaaz Gokool spoke about the case in our press release:

“It’s very unfortunate that the federal government lacked leadership in the crafting of Bill C-14. The burden now falls to Mr. Truchon and Ms. Gladu to show courage in the face of their enduring and intolerable suffering, and to go to court to re-affirm the Carter decision” Gokool says. “DWDC will stand by them and all Canadians who continue to find no comfort in Bill C-14.”

Health Canada released its second interim report on medical assistance in dying (MAID) in Canada. CEO Shanaaz Gokool spoke about the numbers and the barriers to access that still exist in an interview with CBC News:

"We have been contacted by people from all over the country who have faced barriers to access," Gokool told CBC News. "We know the longer it takes for a person to receive help, the greater the risk may be that they will lose capacity or die before they can access their right to medical assistance in dying."

The Health Canada report also showed that the number of medically assisted deaths went up by 46 per cent in Canada in the first six months of 2017. Still, nearly a quarter of Canadians who applied for MAID died before their evaluation was completed. Read more in this Presse Canadienne article on the Montreal Gazette.

Dr. David Amies took a closer look at the report's findings and outlined possibilities for the future of assisted dying in Canada in this DWDC blog post.

Sheila Sperry, who heads DWDC’s Nova Scotia chapter, spoke to CBC’s Information Morning Nova Scotia about access issues in the province.

Almost two-thirds of Nova Scotians who applied for MAID did not receive the assistance they requested.

A British Columbia judge ruled on October 11 that the government can introduce evidence in Lamb v. Canada, even if that evidence retreads ground already covered in Carter. CEO Shanaaz Gokool spoke to The Canadian Press for an article that was picked up by various outlets, including the Vancouver Sun.

“Obviously, we’re very disappointed in the ruling,” she said. “It means that we can expect a lengthy trial, and a very expensive one.” 

You can read more about this ruling on our blog.

The Canadian Paediatric Society released survey results on October 26 that show doctors are increasingly being asked about the option of MAID by patients under the age of 18 and their parents. DWDC agrees with the CPS’ position that further consultation is needed and we thank the CPS for opening up the conversation.

Our CEO Shanaaz Gokool spoke with The Globe and Mail’s Kathryn Blaze Baum about mature minors and MAID:

"How can we look away and say you have to be 18 before you can access MAID?" said Shanaaz Gokool, adding that the group supports further consultation on the issue. "That's the real question that we need to grapple with in the coming months ... It's their body, and it should be their right [to choose MAID] if they have capacity."

Shanaaz also spoke with CBC News about why discrimination is a key concern in the issue of mature minors:

"For us, this is fundamentally an issue about discrimination," said Gokool. "How can we look away from the 16 year old that has enduring, intolerable suffering that can make other health-care decisions? How can we look away from them in the face of that suffering and deny them their right to an assisted death?"

DWDC recognizes that legal assisted dying is creating a space for Canadians to talk about sources of grief and loss that are not widely discussed. Shanaaz spoke to The Canadian Press in support of the CPS and its position:

“We recognize and support the Canadian Paediatric Society position that there needs to be fulsome consultation, more conversation…and I think having these conversations can be very important to the families that are going through varying levels of crisis as it relates to their children.”

Retired senator and DWDC board member, James Cowan, spoke with CBC News Network’s Andrew Nicols about mature minors.

You can read more about the CPS’ report in this article by The Canadian Press that was picked up by CTV News.

Cheppudira Gopalkrishna, a patient at Winnipeg’s faith-based Misericordia Health Centre, has faced various hurdles when trying to access MAID, as reported by CBC News Manitoba. He has been offered little support from the health centre and feels as though his request hasn’t been prioritized. DWDC’s Communications Officer Cory Ruf spoke with Jane Gerster of the Winnipeg Free Press about the case:

"It’s unacceptable for the onus of navigating through the system, of finding out information and connecting Manitobans with the MAID team to be thrust upon the most vulnerable person or people in the process."

Manitoba's Health Minister Kelvin Goertzen said he was troubled by Cheppudira’s experience at Misericordia Health Centre because delayed access to MAID “should not happen.”

A few days after his story broke, Cheppudira Gopalkrishna was able to receive his long-awaited MAID assessment, CBC News Manitoba reported.

Lawyer Allison Fenske participated in a Q&A with CBC News Manitoba about how the courts balance competing rights when it comes to MAID.

In other Manitoba news, Dr. Kim Wiebe, who leads the province’s MAID team, spoke to the Winnipeg Free Press about the increase in requests and the growth of the health-care team. The piece also touched on the MAID statistics in the province and the data currently being collected. CEO Shanaaz Gokool addressed the troubling gaps in the data:

"The thing that is really clear is Manitoba, like every other province, is having problems around the collection and reporting of the data,” she said. “Without that information it becomes very difficult to make decisions about, ‘Is this thing working? Is it working well? Are there enough providers in Manitoba?’”

Manitoba has also proposed legislation, Bill 34, to protect health professionals who object to assisted dying. The bill, DWDC argues, is one-sided and fails to protect patients’ rights to access. CEO Shanaaz Gokool spoke with CBC News Manitoba’s Holly Caruk about the bill:

“What we should be doing is putting forward legislation that supports the rights of all Manitobans, not just a certain select group that object to something that everyone has a right to.”

A Kingston, Ontario woman’s assisted death has been called “a blessing” by her family. The children of Joyce Tucker Brumwell spoke to The Kingston Whig-Standard about their mother’s life and choice. While Joyce was able to exercise her end-of-life choice, DWDC’s Cory Ruf commented on how far too many Canadians continue to face barriers to their assisted dying access.

“Unfortunately that right, and it is a right, is not available to all those people who were given that right by the Supreme Court’s decision,” Ruf said.

Ontario’s Ministry of Health expects that one-fifth of the province’s hospitals will refuse to allow assisted dying on site. Both CEO Shanaaz Gokool and Communications Officer Cory Ruf spoke to Radio-Canada about this troubling reality. (Note: This article is in French. Please use Google Translate to read the full text.)

“It raises questions as to whether the province is taking the necessary steps to ensure that medical assistance in dying is equally accessible throughout the health-care system,” Ruf said.

Northumberland Hills Hospital (NHH) in Cobourg, ON will begin to offer MAID. The hospital made headlines in the summer after a family shared the struggles their late father, Austin, faced when trying to access assisted dying on its premises. The family faced months of obstruction, as detailed by Austin’s daughter, Debra, on DWDC’s blog. Less than two months after Austin’s family spoke out against NHH, the hospital announced it would provide MAID.

Debra wrote an update for our blog that outlines how her family was able to effect real change in their community.

“I would like to encourage everyone who has a story to tell about assisted dying to do so. We had no idea of the incredible impact that our story would have on individuals and our community in general. We made a difference and every voice that speaks up can make a difference, too.”

Dr. Ken Walker, also known as Dr. W. Gifford-Jones, a long-time DWDC supporter and member of our Physicians Advisory Council, reflected on his career as an early abortion provider and assisted death advocate in this profile by Postmedia News.

DWDC is immensely grateful to have Dr. Walker’s distinct joie de vivre on the team!

The College of Physicians and Surgeons of British Columbia has strengthened its position on conscientious objection.

“Physicians must not delay or impede access to patients seeking additional information about MAID, or to care coordinators attempting to assist patients. Intentional delays in responding to or releasing information about a patient to care coordinators may be deemed unprofessional in the event of a complaint.”

Palliative care doctor Joshua Wales shares the story of his first time providing MAID in this compelling radio documentary for CBC’s The Doc Project. To play such an important role in someone’s death, Dr. Wales felt as though he needed to understand his patient’s life, too:

"I remember how specifically she coloured her losses for me," remembers Wales. "She wasn't able to walk to the beach, wading into the lake, shrieking as the too-cold water splashed her calves. She could no longer eat a huge sandwich from her favourite place down the street. She couldn't wander her neighbourhood on quiet Sunday mornings before everyone was awake. She knew for herself what living meant. And to her, this wasn't worth it anymore."

The Globe and Mail’s Sandra Martin wrote that aging prisoners deserve proper healthcare, including access to MAID:

“Why should we care if an inmate old enough to be somebody's grandparent dies in a cell without adequate medical treatment, access to appropriate palliative care or medical assistance in dying? I think there are three reasons: compassion, equality and autonomy.”

Craig Goldie, a palliative care physician from Kingston, ON, wrote that those requesting a medically assisted death should be able to access it in an equitable, respectful and expedient way. The piece original appeared at The Conversation and was republished by Maclean’s.

“In the end, palliative care doctors, providers of MAID and the public all have the same goal: to alleviate suffering, to maximize quality of life and to respect autonomy for those suffering from life-limited illnesses.”

The number of assisted dying cases in Quebec jumped by 282 per cent in 2016 to 2017 compared with the previous year, as reported by the Montreal Gazette.

You can read more about Quebec’s assisted dying statistics in this piece for The Canadian Press.

CPAC’s "Right to Die" tells the story of how Canada's assisted dying law came to be. You can watch the full documentary here.

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