COLUMN: Making the case for MAID

Do not go gentle into that good night…

Rage, rage against the dying of the light.

Well Dylan Thomas, I’m not sure if Kirk Douglas raged against the dying of the light. The movie legend, who died this month at the age of 103, was likely ready to go as his body was wracked with old age and illness.

He died surrounded by his family.

I am guessing it was what is called in the medical profession “a good death.”

Would that we all could experience a good death for there is one thing that is certain.

We are all going to die.

We may not win the lottery or own a Maserati or find true love, but we are all going to die. This remains a subject many Canadians are still loath to discuss but the conversation has started and continues.

The legislation for MAID, or Medical Assistance in Dying, was passed in Canada in 2016 and more than 7,000 Canadians have taken advantage of this law to end their suffering.

According to the CARP website, Medical Assistance in Dying currently includes:

• the use of medication by a physician or nurse practitioner to directly cause a person’s death at their request;

• the prescription or provision of medication by a physician or nurse practitioner that a person can use to cause their own death.

However, a Quebec judge has ruled that parts of the laws on MAID are unconstitutional and has given the federal government six months to address this. The section in question is the part that says a patient’s death must be “reasonably foreseeable” to be eligible for MAID.

At the time of writing, we are awaiting the government’s amendments and reintroduction of the legislation after consultation with Canadians in meetings and in an online survey which over 300,000 people participated in.

CARP also encouraged our members to give their feedback on changes to Medical Assistance in Dying.

Many Canadians believe expanding the criteria for eligibility is necessary while others disagree, spouting rhetoric about the “slippery slope.”

The Catholics say expansion of MAID would affect the vulnerable, such as those with a mental illness or dementia.

I remember when our CARP chapter presented a three-part series (before the legislation was passed) entitled Dying to Have a Conversation.

We had to turn people away.

We invited a panel of lawyers and doctors representing both sides of the issue. At one point, I had to physically wedge my body between a Catholic priest waving a Bible and an impassioned gentleman whose views differed from him in order to avoid an all-out brawl.

In a recent online CBC opinion piece, Michael Coren, author and Anglican minister, says “the alternative to assisted dying isn’t living – it’s unassisted dying.”

I couldn’t agree more.

According to Coren, MAID is about listening to someone who asks for control over their own body. Control over their own body.

What gives anyone the right to deny someone that control?

My mother, in her 95th year, chose MAID as an option to end her life. It wasn’t a frivolous decision but a realistic one, as she was terminally ill and in pain. Once she made her decision, a team of Fraser Health professionals got involved including two different doctors who interviewed her separately to make sure her mind was clear and this was what she truly wanted.

They were so compassionate and normalized the experience of death, which was a comfort to my mother and our family. Something I would wish for everyone.

Including Gone With the Wind actress, Olivia de Havilland, who is still alive at age 103.

April Lewis is the local communications director for CARP, a national group committed to a ‘New Vision of Aging for Canada.’

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