Personal story

Colette’s story: My mother fought for her right to assisted dying. This is her legacy.

Not long after Canada passed its assisted dying law in June 2016, British Columbia's Mary John submitted her request and was approved. But her joy over being able to die on her own terms quickly turned to additional pain and frustration when hospice staff repeatedly obstructed her access, needlessly prolonging her life and her suffering.

After weeks of this active interference, Mary finally got her wish: She became one of the first British Columbians to access assisted dying — if not, the first. Throughout her weeks-long ordeal, she and her family never once stopped advocating for her right to a peaceful death. 

In this powerful blog post, Mary’s daughter, Colette, and her boyfriend, Dean, share how Mary's fight for choice and compassion was able to pave the way for patients and families in her community and province.

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I supported my husband on his assisted dying journey. This is what I learned.

In early November, Jana Buhlmann wrote a powerful entry for the DWDC blog about her husband, Chris, who had a medically assisted death in September 2017. In her follow-up post, Jana reflects on the resistance Chris faced from people in his life who opposed his end-of-life choice — and the lessons she learned about herself along the journey.

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Kate's story: My dad chose a medically assisted death. This is my celebration of his life and choice.

In late June, Mark Alexander died peacefully at his home, surrounded by his close family and friends. The British Columbia man was an avid outdoorsman, globe-trotter, and beer-league hockey player who loved all kinds of physical activity, but loved his family above all else. Despite his zest for life, Mark was always realistic about his prostate cancer diagnosis. After every treatment failed, he made the decision to access medical assistance in dying, and he did so with unwavering conviction. At his Celebration of Life reception, his daughter, Kate, presented a speech about his end-of-life choice. She has graciously allowed us to share her beautiful words on our blog.

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Maggie’s story: Will I be able to make the end-of-life choice I want?

Maggie Bristow can no longer bear to breathe because every breath sets her body afire with pain. The Ottawa woman has fibromyalgia and spinal stenosis, along with a host of other medical conditions, and wants nothing more than to be able to access medical assistance in dying. Physically unable to write her own story, Maggie spoke with Dying With Dignity Canada volunteer Liana Brittain, who helped Maggie put her excruciating pain into words.

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Kathy’s story: My second wife’s assisted death brought peace and joy. But my first wife’s death still haunts me.

Kathy watched Kim, her wife of 25 years, die a "soul-destroying" and traumatic death in 2014 — just two years before Canada passed its assisted dying law.

A few years later, Kathy watched as her second wife, Lynne, was diagnosed with a terminal disease, but this time, assisted dying was newly legal and available in Canada. The contrast between Kim's death and Lynne's was stark, Kathy writes.

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Jana's story: My husband’s assisted death spared him the suffering he feared most

When Jana Buhlmann's husband, Chris, celebrated his 41st birthday, it was a bittersweet occasion because they both knew it would be his last. The very next day, Chris was scheduled to have his medically assisted death. He struggled with the decision, but he knew his grim prognosis and the imminent intolerable suffering on the road ahead. Assisted dying offered him another, more compassionate path instead, Jana writes.

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How one family’s assisted dying story effected real change in their community

In August, Debra Westbrook and her family spoke out in their local newspaper and on our blog about the obstruction their father faced in his months-long struggle to access assisted dying at their local hospital. Less than two months later, that same hospital made a major change to prevent the same thing from happening again. In this special update, Debra writes about how she and her family were able to inspire change in their community — and makes a call for others to do the same.

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Denise's story: My husband's medically assisted death was a compassionate gift

A few months after Denise's husband, Ed, was diagnosed with cardiac amyloidosis, he began to feel "trapped" in his body. Ed, who had lost the ability to move or do the things he loved, was so relieved to discover that he qualified for a medically assisted death. In this blog post, Denise tells the story of her husband's devastating disease and the days and weeks leading up to the peaceful death he so desired.

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Judy's story: I support advance requests for assisted dying because my husband's last years were horrifying

When Brian was diagnosed with an aggressive form of Parkinson's, he and his wife, Judy, read everything they could about his disease and his prognosis. They wanted to be ready and to know what to expect. Sadly, nothing could have prepared them for a reality that was far worse than they had ever anticipated. In this blog post, Judy, who asked that her real name not be used to protect her privacy, writes honestly about her husband's horrifying last years and why she wishes his right to end-of-life choice had been respected.

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Debra's story: My father was forced to suffer for months before he could access assisted dying

It was a horrifying emotional and physical roller coaster that never seemed to end. Austin, an Ontario-based man whose last name has been withheld for privacy reasons, first made the request to die with medical assistance in late 2016, at the age of 89. Time and time again, his access was cruelly denied and obstructed by medical professionals. His daughter, Debra, writes about her father's months-long struggle to access his final wish.

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