Audrey Parker, the Halifax woman who spent the last weeks of her life raising awareness about the challenges facing Canadians who have been assessed and approved for assisted dying, “changed the national conversation” around end-of-life choice, Dying With Dignity Canada says.
Parker, 57, died with medical assistance on Thursday, two and a half years after she was diagnosed with an incurable cancer. Though her assisted death was the culmination of her deeply held wish to “die in style,” Parker said she was opting to die earlier than she would otherwise want to because of a flaw in Canada’s assisted dying law: the requirement that the suffering person be competent immediately before life-ending treatment is administered.
“People like me are dying earlier than necessary because of this poorly thought out law,” Parker said in a Thursday statement announcing her death. “Once someone goes through the rigorous legal and medical consent process this should be enough. Double consent does not protect patients. It hurts us.”
The leading organization working to defend Canadians’ end-of-life rights, Dying With Dignity Canada (DWDC) is commemorating Parker’s death by carrying on her call to respect the rights of people who have already been assessed and approved for assisted dying. “Like Canadians across this country, we are in awe of the contributions Audrey made during her last weeks of life,” said DWDC CEO Shanaaz Gokool. “By sharing her story publicly, Audrey changed the national conversation about choices in dying and, in the process, sparked a legacy of giving back that will last for many years to come.”
DWDC had several telephone conversations with Parker in the last month of her life. These discussions deepened the organization’s understanding of the difficult choices faced by people who have been assessed and approved for assisted dying. “With bravery and humour, this incredible woman put a human face on a difficult issue and gave us the language we needed to more effectively describe it,” Gokool said. “People in the Assessed and Approved category are exceptionally vulnerable because of their level of suffering and because they are at high risk of losing capacity. We are humbled that Audrey would trust us to use her story to help protect these individuals’ rights.”
In the weeks and months ahead, DWDC will be launching a campaign in Audrey’s honour to restore the rights of suffering people who have been assessed and approved for assisted dying. “Right now, dying people are ending their lives earlier than they would like, or they are refusing adequate pain care, out of fear that they will lose out on their right to a peaceful death,” Gokool said. “As Audrey’s story demonstrates, this is an unacceptable burden for anyone to bear, and it is a clear and grave violation of Canadians’ Charter rights.
“Our lawmakers have a duty to act to ensure that no one else has to face the same cruel choice that Audrey did at the end of her life,” she added. “Unless they act now, many more Canadians will be forced to die earlier than they would like to as a result of this unjust, inhumane rule.”
We are incredibly honoured that Audrey would encourage Canadians to support the work of Dying With Dignity Canada. To make a gift in her memory, go to our tribute donations page. We thank you for your support in seeing Audrey's vision through!