Personal story

Liana Brittain: How Canada’s flawed assisted dying law led my husband to end his life earlier than he wanted

All Paul Couvrette wanted was more time. He had finally met and married the love of his life, and they had retired to their dream home by the sea on Prince Edward Island. But Paul's lifelong retirement dream was cut tragically short when he was diagnosed with terminal cancer not long after their move.

Choosing to die with dignity on his own terms, Paul underwent the rigorous screening and approval process for medical assistance in dying. He was found to be eligible for the procedure, but a flaw in Canada's assisted dying law forced Paul to die earlier than he wanted.

In this blog, his widow, Liana Brittain, reflects on the late-stage consent requirement in the law and the cruel choice it forced Paul to make.

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Kristen’s story: Will my mother be denied end-of-life choice like my grandmother was?

In this blog post, Edmonton's Kristen Kizlyk describes how a dementia diagnosis ultimately changed the course of her grandmother's life. Her final memories of her grandmother — her "shining light" — are full of pain and suffering.

Kristen hopes her mother, who was diagnosed with multiple sclerosis in 2001, will be able to avoid this same fate. But because of the ban on advance requests for assisted dying, Kristen's mother — who is at risk of losing capacity — may not be able to access her right to a peaceful medically assisted death. Our existing discriminatory rules, Kristen writes, must change to ensure the rights of people with degenerative conditions are respected.

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Liana Brittain: Surviving the holiday season in the midst of grief

When it comes to grief and bereavement, everyone’s path is different. Similarly, every experience with medical assistance in dying (MAID) is as individual as the person who chooses it. That’s why we have much to learn from the growing number of Canadians who have supported a loved one on a journey with assisted dying.

In this special blog post, Ontario’s Liana Brittain provides invaluable insights into her grief following her husband Paul’s assisted death. She also writes about the unique challenges facing loved ones who are left behind after a MAID death and the pain that is triggered by the holiday season.

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Marj's story: My husband got the death he wanted — but getting there wasn't easy

The option of a medically assisted death can be a source of hope and relief for Canadians who are suffering intolerably as the result of a severe medical condition. But certain elements of our assisted dying rules are harming the very people they're meant to protect.

Take Owen, an Okanagan Valley man who was diagnosed with a rare melanoma cell cancer in August 2016. Owen and his wife, Marj, successfully advocated for his right to medical assistance in dying (MAID) after some resistance from his medical team. 

But going through the rigorous legal and medical process of being assessed and, later, approved for an assisted death didn't bring Owen and his family total peace of mind. In fact, he faced an additional burden once he was found to be eligible: the law's requirement that he have the capacity to consent at the time of his MAID procedure. Owen, whose tumour was spreading quickly to his brain, was at high risk of losing capacity.

He spent his final days of life anxious and afraid that he would lose his right to an assisted death, his wife writes.

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What I learned from my client’s fight for an assisted death

Calgary lawyer Aman Sran has seen up close the barriers facing people who want to exercise their right to a peaceful death.

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How being approved for an assisted death gave new life to my mother in her final days

British Columbia’s Jane Hamilton lived a quiet and fiercely independent life. A lifelong housekeeper, part-time health care aide, and hospice volunteer, Jane charmed her loved ones with her signature Mad magazine sense of humour, her green thumb, and her love of art, crossword puzzles, dogs, and books.

After being diagnosed with lung cancer in 2017, Jane was given a devastating prognosis. She decided against treatment and opted instead to pursue medical assistance in dying (MAID). Once she was approved for MAID, Jane began to live her life with confidence, freedom, and renewed vigour despite her illness. For 11 months, she lived life completely on her terms, comforted by the knowledge that she was in control and could access MAID at any time.

In this special blog post, Jane’s daughter, Wendy, shares what their last year together was like, from Jane’s diagnosis to her medically assisted death.

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Trapped by ALS, my sister found freedom with a medically assisted death

For more than a year, Janis Clennett’s sister Sheila suffered from a variety of medical issues. Her many visits to the doctor and extended stays at the hospital had led to zero answers. Doctors simply couldn’t figure out why she kept falling or why she was having trouble breathing.

When the ALS diagnosis finally came a year and a half later, Sheila felt relief. Finally, she had answers. Finally, she had enough information to start planning for the end.

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Sandra’s story: How I supported my son on his journey with assisted dying

Readers of the Dying With Dignity Canada blog will be familiar with Don Kent, the Ottawa-area man who candidly documented his quest for an assisted death in a seven-part series called Don’s Journey. Don gave us all an honest look into the end of his life, from his terminal cancer diagnosis to his frequent trips to the emergency room, and finally, to his medically assisted death on April 20.

In this very special blog post, Don's mother, Sandra, shares what it was like for her to support her son through every step of his journey.

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My wife lived life on her own terms. Her death was no different.

When Linda Levy of Toronto was diagnosed with chronic obstructive pulmonary disease in 2011, her health — and quality of life — deteriorated rapidly. Living with excruciating chronic pain and unable to do the things she loved, Linda began to explore her legal options and never once stopped advocating for herself. She became a member of Dying With Dignity Canada, she sent hundreds of letters to decision-makers in support of both the organization and assisted dying, and she refused to take "no" for an answer when her requests for an assisted death were denied by her doctor. In 2018, after months of trying, Linda was finally granted the right to have a medically assisted death. 

This is her story, as told by her beloved husband Lorne.

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My wife wanted her choice of a peaceful death to be shared. This is our story.

Winnipeg’s Jean Ayre believed passionately in a more loving and caring world, and throughout her 86 years of life, she did everything in her power to make that belief a reality. It’s no surprise, then, that on her final day — the day she said “yes” to a medically assisted death — Jean was surrounded by unconditional love and care in the form of her husband, their family, and 15 of their closest friends.

In this special blog post, Jean's husband, Don, shares the powerful story of their love, while recounting their final months together and the peace Jean felt when she made her final choice.

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