Noreen Speaks: B.C.'s Noreen Campbell shares how she set the date for her assisted death

As Noreen Campbell’s symptoms worsened and her anxiety grew, she began thinking about setting a date for her medically assisted death.

For months, that specific date had been undetermined, lingering on the horizon for the North Saanich, British Columbia resident who had been approved for medical assistance in dying (MAID) in August 2016. She eventually settled on a date: January 12, 2017.

In the time between the approval and her peaceful death, Noreen worked closely with Jeffrey Brooks of the Dying With Dignity Canada Victoria chapter to create the Noreen Speaks video series.

In the series’ third instalment, Noreen spoke openly about how she chose the date of her death, a process she called “bizarre,” but also an “incredible privilege.”

Ultimately, she said, it came down to her quality of life and her ability to control her symptoms in confidence. Noreen, who suffered from oral cancer before developing chronic obstructive pulmonary disease, once said her every breath felt like work — and that she never knew which one would be her last.

“Recently, I am spending all of my day trying to control symptoms,” she said in the video. “I’m looking at a date now because of my symptoms being worse. […] I would rather set a date when I am able to cope.”

Noreen expressed anxiety over her worsening symptoms, and wondered what would happen if she waited too long and lost capacity. She had already been afforded four extra months of life — her approval for MAID on Canadian soil meant she no longer had to follow through on her original plan to go to Switzerland in September.

As 2016 came to a close, then, she knew it was almost time.

“I am satisfied with what I’ve been able to accomplish. There’s nothing more that can be done for me other than losing more and more function,” she said. “I really feel fairly calm.”

Setting the date, she added, gave her a sense of relief and granted her loved ones the opportunity to prepare.

“It just sounds really funny. It’s like a death sentence that you self-impose!” she laughed. “[But] it really is the opportunity to finish things off, which is an incredible privilege when you come right down to it.”

DWDC will be forever grateful to the late Noreen Campbell for sharing her story, and we thank Jeffrey Brooks for his tremendous work producing the Noreen Speaks videos. Watch the DWDC blog for future instalments of Noreen Speaks.

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