PENINSULA ZOOMERS: Last wishes and other rights

I swear, it is easier to engage people in a conversation about sex than about death or dying.

Maybe that’s because it is easier to laugh and make fun of sex as it is omnipresent. All you have to do is look at advertising, listen to music and watch TV. It is everywhere.

Even Betty White, at 92, pokes fun at sex.

I don’t hear her talking about dying though, although for her it may be lurking perilously close.

Which brings me to my point. I am dying to have a conversation with you about end-of-life issues.

Before I became a writer, I spent my career in health care. From a personal perspective, I can honestly say that my most fulfilling role professionally was working as a palliative care and emergency social worker in a hospital setting.

The most intimate human experience, in my opinion, is sharing a human’s last breath.

The sheer fact that I was allowed to participate in the final act of dying, watching a stranger “slip the surly bonds of earth” was a powerful experience.

I always hoped for “a good death.” So now you know, I have a personal interest in the subject.

And as a baby boomer, I have an even greater vested interest. By the year 2030, one-quarter of us Zoomers will be over the age of 65.

As the B.C. rep for CARP (A New Vision of Aging for Canada) and the communications director for our White Rock/Surrey chapter, my interest is further piqued.

The subject of euthanasia, assisted suicide or dying with dignity is everywhere in the media. In fact, the National Post dedicated an entire newspaper to the subject. There was a beautiful series on CBC’s The National by Duncan McCue, called Last Right.

CARP does not have an official position on euthanasia or assisted suicide. CARP will not encourage people to do one thing over another. It is a personal/individual decision.

However, CARP does encourage Canadians to have “the talk” and even make necessary plans. We want Canadians to be talking with their families about end-of-life issues, challenges, and what they want when the time comes.

Too many individuals do not, and when the time comes, it can be a very painful and challenging time – not only are the wishes and preferences of the individuals not discussed, families are also conflicted with what they want vs what the individual wants and making decisions in already highly stressful times can be that much more challenging.

There are articles posted on the CARP website to encourage people to think about both sides of the issue.

So in this vain, your local White Rock/Surrey chapter invites you this week to: Dying to Have a Conversation – Let’s Talk About End of Life Issues.

This will be a panel with Dr. Jim Stephenson, Dying with Dignity chairman; Grace Pastine, B.C. Civil Liberties Association; and Dr. Will Johnston, former chair of Physicians for Life.

Please join us on Thursday (March 6) from 7-9 p.m. at White Rock Community Centre, 15154 Russell Ave. RSVP to Denice at 604-538-5778.

We are dying to hear what you have to say.

April Lewis is the local communications director for CARP. She writes monthly for the Peace Arch News.

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