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?

Bob Blackwood faced numerous obstacles while trying to access an assisted death in Quebec as a result of the province’s dual assisted dying laws. DWDC helped Bob’s wife Heather Ross share his story with CBC reporter Kate McKenna. Our CEO Shanaaz Gokool also spoke with the CBC about the complexity of the federal and Quebec assisted dying laws:

"I think their case really illustrates how when … those two pieces of legislation buttress up against each other, it leaves clinicians in a very difficult place, and it leaves families in very, very difficult circumstances.”

DWDC’s Communications Officer Cory Ruf spoke with The London Free Press about the South West Local Health Integration Network’s efforts to allow nurse practitioners to assess for and provide medical assistance in dying (MAID). The super-agency oversees health care funding and administration for much of Southwestern Ontario.

“It’s unfortunate and surprising that it’s taken so many parts of the province so long to incorporate, or to allow nurse practitioners to participate, in a manner that the law allows for,” said Cory Ruf […] We are pleased the South West LHIN is taking steps to allow nurse practitioners to participate in this extremely important field of work.”

DWDC volunteers Ron Posno and his wife, Sandy, spoke with the CBC's Alisa Siegel on The Sunday Edition about Ron’s dementia diagnosis, and his wishes for MAID and the right to make an advance request.

Ron, who lives in London, Ont., spoke candidly about his wishes for an assisted death before he reaches the end stages of his Alzheimer’s. But under the current assisted dying law, a person must have capacity to consent at the time of the procedure. Posno is willing to do whatever it takes to access his right to a peaceful death, including challenging the law.

“The Supreme Court said that it's a charter right. People should not have to live in periods of extreme pain and agony," he said. “I have dementia. I'm still a Canadian citizen. I have full rights. I want those rights."

You can read more about Ron Posno’s quest for an assisted death on his personal website.

The ban on advance requests for assisted dying is leading some desperately ill Canadians to forego adequate pain care at end of life and others to access assisted dying earlier than they would otherwise want.

Nova Scotia woman Audrey Parker has been approved for a medically assisted death and is planning to die on November 1. She is dying earlier than she wants due to her fear of losing capacity. She shared her thoughts about the assisted dying law with CBC News:

"I think once I've signed the papers and have agreed, it should stand. But I still have to worry that if I lose my marbles, that they won't do it. And then I'm going to die poorly."

Former senator Jim Cowan, chair of DWDC's Board of Directors, joined The Exchange with Matt Gurney to discuss Audrey Parker’s case and the ban on advance requests for assisted dying.

You can listen to the audio here.

Audrey’s story was also covered by Halifax Today.

"Let's just say I had early onset Alzheimer's or something that I knew would affect my mental capacity, well for people like that it's not even an option for them because we all know they're not going to have any mental capacity when they would receive medical assistance in dying."

The Chronicle Herald's John DeMont wrote a piece on Audrey's end-of-life journey.

“I’m leaving sooner than I would have liked.”

Audrey was interviewed on The Rick Howe Show about her upcoming assisted death and why she’s planning to die earlier than she would like.

You can listen to her interview here. (It starts around the 1:27 mark.)

In response to Audrey’s story, The Chronicle Herald published a thoughtful and compassionate editorial on advance requests for assisted dying.

“People facing the end of their lives should not have to give up any more time than necessary.”

Meanwhile, in Quebec, discussions about advance requests for assisted dying are heating up. The federal government has warned Quebec against permitting advance requests since provinces are not allowed to pass laws on assisted death that are more permissive than the federal law.

You can read more in this article published by Le Devoir. (The article is in French, but you can use this online tool to translate the story.)

The number of assisted deaths in Alberta is up nearly 50 per cent so far this year over last, according to Alberta Health Services. DWDC CEO Shanaaz Gokool spoke with the Calgary Herald about AB, an Ontario woman whose court action helped to clarify Canada’s assisted dying law. The ruling in her case likely gave clinicians more confidence in interpreting the law.

“That decision has certainly reverberated…it’s given a lot of clinicians comfort but not enough.”

The Economist ran a series of essays by people who are both for and against assisted dying. The full series, which ran for two weeks, can be found here.

Some of the series’ highlights included:

Sheilia Sperry, chair of DWDC’s Nova Scotia chapter, spoke to CTV News about the need for more transparency around medical assistance in dying in the province.

“To have a loved one request assistance in dying, for the family to agree to that, is the most loving, brave thing for a family to do…And they shouldn’t be tied up in a lot of paperwork.”

Health Canada revealed its final regulations for a national system for monitoring medical assistance in dying. These regulations will come into effect on November 1.

You can learn more on the DWDC blog

Vancouver Island Health Authority has launched a program to help friends and loved ones cope after an assisted death. These “Grief is a Journey” bereavement groups are aimed at helping people understand their reactions to such deaths. Oceanna Hall, who will lead the group, spoke with the Times Colonist about the program.

“There can be a lot of stigma to how any unique individual feels about the choice their family member or friend has made.”

Jo Aubin was adamant he didn’t want to end up in a long-term care facility—and he hoped that Canada’s legalization of assisted death would help him avoid that fate. But when medical assistance in dying became law in 2016, the option of making an advance request wasn't included.

Maclean’s writer Shannon Proudfoot wrote an incredibly moving piece about Jo’s Alzheimer’s diagnosis at age 37 and his wife Robin’s journey as his primary caregiver.

Western University researchers are calling for policies for patients who want to donate their organs following their assisted death. The London Free Press reported on the issue.

“Some patients want to elect physician-assisted death and they also want to donate organs in the best possible condition. This raises the question of how protocols might change to allow both of these things to happen simultaneously.”

University of Saskatchewan students enrolled in the Colleges of Medicine, Nursing, and Pharmacy and Nutrition will be taught about medical assistance in dying in their mandatory courses.

“Students pay attention to news and this was a huge news story and they want to know what the guidelines are for this and how this is going to affect them.”

Karen E. Toole has worked as an instructor of spiritual diversity and as a spiritual health-care provider. In her piece for the Winnipeg Free Press, she shares her experience at the bedside of a person who chose an assisted death.

“I have seen many people die in the career I chose for life, but never have I seen such a compassionate beginning to the mystery of the eternal.”

Surrey-area doctor Richard Wadge died this summer after receiving MAID. He spoke to the Surrey Now-Leader in the days before his death.

“This is a wonderful time to be a doctor. Medicine is on such an amazing course right now —so many expanding fields: chemical, biological, genetic, stem cells, all of that. We have better investigations, better treatment. But we must not lose our way as doctors. We have to keep sight of the patient. Patients have to be the most important part of what we do. Don’t get too seduced by all the technical bells and whistles and forget about listening to and meeting the needs of the patient."

Kitchener, Ont.’s Jessie Maniatacos spoke to The Record about her husband’s decision to access MAID. In the days leading up to his death, Ron’s health declined rapidly and he became worried about losing capacity. Thankfully, he was able to receive MAID after moving the date of his death up by two weeks.

“He was petrified because he could have a stroke and this would not happen.”

André Picard, health columnist at The Globe and Mail, wrote a piece on the state of palliative care in Canada.

“An estimated 89 per cent of Canadians could benefit from palliative care in the last year of life. But only 15 per cent are actually getting it.”

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