Danielle Lacroix, a 61-year-old mother of two who has battled cancer for more than a decade, was recently diagnosed with terminal liver cancer. With three to four months left to live, she has come to terms with her diagnosis and is certain of her desire for an assisted death when her illness progresses to its final stages.
“I’ve made my decision. I am at my limit…I don’t want to live in the illusion that it will get better. That’s a big mistake,” she says.
Hers is just one of many voices and stories shared in Road to Mercy, a film by Nadine Pequeneza that documents Canada’s journey toward the legalization of assisted dying.
- Related: Assisted dying is no longer illegal in Canada
- Related: Why Canadians deserve the right to make advance requests for assisted dying
This journey — advertised on Road to Mercy's official website as one that brings our country into the “furthest ethical frontier” — shows real, personal stories of pain, conflict, compassion and hope. Suffering Canadians with a variety of diagnoses, including ALS, dementia, mental illness and cancer, speak on camera about their mortality and their desire to on their own terms. The documentary also introduces doctors, advocates and psychotherapists who have, in some form, been witness to individuals undergoing, or seeking to undergo, this most vulnerable of life transitions.
Dying With Dignity Canada’s own CEO Shanaaz Gokool and Personal Support Manager Nino Sekopet make appearances in the documentary as they — along with a man diagnosed with early onset Alzheimer’s — wade into the issue of advance consent for medical aid in dying.
“The concern about dementia is so great that not trying to advocate for advance consent would be a disservice to thousands of Canadians,” Gokool says in Road to Mercy. “And it’s the most critical time — our window of opportunity.”
Of course, the documentary also brings to life the inner conflict and challenges that come with seeking and administering an assisted death. There are almost too many “moral and ethical quandaries at the heart of this practice” to name, as doctors and patients from coast to coast grapple with their consciences and attempt to define the limits of this new Charter right.
While there are no clear, easy answers, Road to Mercy brings faces, names and emotions to the topic of assisted dying in Canada, where the practice is in its infancy. It’s a start.
Road to Mercy: A Look at Medical Assistance in Dying will premiere on CBC Firsthand on October 6 at 9 p.m. EST.