Donor spotlight: Sam's story

Dying with Dignity Canada's supporters are passionate allies in the defence of human rights. Some choose to raise awareness by sharing their personal end-of-life experiences, others volunteer at the local level with one of our regional Chapters, send a letter to decision-makers, act as an Independent Witness for medical assistance in dying, or give a gift to advance our mission. 

Throughout the year, we will be highlighting the stories and contributions of DWDC's donors, and what motivates them to give so generously. 

This is Sam's story.


 

Of all the worthy causes my wife and I care about, Dying With Dignity Canada (DWDC) happens to rank quite high. The concept of a dignified dying process was important to us even before witnessing the prolonged and somewhat ignoble death of our fathers; hers, a course of over eight years, and mine just over four. We both had prepared living wills expressing our distaste for protraction of our death sequence. Those wills have now been replaced by more specific Advance Care Plans, thanks to DWDC’s effort to introduce and make them available to the public. 

In my opinion, of all the endeavours attempted by an organization such as DWDC, public awareness places first and foremost. I truly believe that the most important step towards our goal is to do away with the taboo status that death is assigned in our public discourse. I happened to be listening to CBC Radio, where a sociology expert was citing some studies. They invariably demonstrated that nations who had an easier time with death as a natural part of the life process - be it between family members or the community at large - enjoyed a higher degree of societal health. 

Gratefully, Canada is a secular country in the public domain. It allows individuals to retain their belief system while generally disallowing those beliefs to enter policy development. In doing so, it provides the opportunity to look at death out of the supernatural spotlight, and as a process not controlled by a deity; but solely as the final stage of life; a life where, I believe, the enhancement of wellbeing and alleviation of suffering form the foundation of morality. 

But in my assessment, what afflicts well-off societies such as Canada in this regard is that we have become the victims of our own success in medicine. We enjoy one of the best healthcare systems on the planet in terms of availability and advanced technology. Somehow, and unfortunately, this has led us to view death as a defeat and a failure. Inversely, we are under the impression that delaying death is a success, in and of itself. As my foreign-born mother-in-law cleverly observes, “In Canada, they don’t give you permission to die.” 

In this light, the subject of quality of life and suffering takes a back seat and is not afforded the same exposure when discussing treatment options between a physician and patient. The discussion also fails to consider the detrimental effects of prolongation of the death process on the loved ones of the dying. I witness this often as I work in a tertiary care health facility. 

I have joined my local Chapter, signed all DWDC petitions addressed to our politicians, had lengthy conversations with my MP, and submitted a citizen’s letter to the parliamentary committee in charge of Bill C-7 before it passed. Despite being as generous a donor as I can be, my wish is to give to DWDC more of my time than my money by becoming more involved in the Chapter and volunteering in different capacities. This wish will materialize after my approaching retirement, when I end up with more time than money. 

Sam A. 


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