British Columbia widow grateful MAID allowed her husband to die with dignity and compassion
Before Don Findlay fell ill, he was full of life.
His wife Bonita even called him “an Energizer Bunny.”
“He could be circling me,” she said.
But after more than a decade of treatment, her cancer progressed in the spring of 2018.
Don grew increasingly tired and his medical capabilities dwindled. The Findlays, who married later in life, had already discussed their end-of-life decisions and were both open to the idea of seeking medical assistance for dying (MAID). Don decided he wanted to use MAID’s services. By this time, Don’s cancer was incurable and he also suffered from cardiovascular and respiratory diseases.
They approached their GP to start the MAID process. Their doctor supported Don’s decision, but was unable to help him. Not knowing where to go, they contacted Ontario-based Dying with Dignity Canada. They referred the Findlays to Fraser Health.
From there, they began the application process. During her first of two evaluations, the doctor asked Bonita what she thought of Don’s candidacy.
“I’m not happy about that,” Bonita recalls.
“It makes me sad. I’m not ready yet, but I totally get it. It’s his decision.”
Bonita said she knew it was her job to support her. And all their children – both had children from previous marriages – supported Don’s decision.
At the time of his death, the law required that the person be able to give his consent just before resorting to medical assistance when dying. Don was worried that his mental state was deteriorating, so he wanted to leave on his own terms as soon as possible.
“Sometimes I wonder if he had been sure he could have put it off that he could have waited longer,” said Bonita.
In 2021, a change in law has been made that allows signing a final waiver in specific circumstances.
Less than two weeks passed between the day Don was approved and the day he died. He decided he wanted to die in his home in South Surrey with only Bonita by his side.
That day was August 28, 2018.
A nurse was the first to arrive. She asked Don if it was something he still wanted.
“Yes,” he said.
Then two doctors came. One was there to learn from the doctor who did the MAID (the Findlays had agreed). Doctors explained what the drug would do and how it would go peacefully. The doctors asked Don one last time if he was okay.
“Yeah, absolutely,” Bonita remembered saying.
The doctors administered the drugs.
Brûlée, the Findlays poodle, was in the room when Don died. Bonita remembered that Brûlée knew exactly when Don died. She pushed under his arm and put her nose on Don’s arm. Brûlée stayed with Don until the funeral home came to transport her body.
Don was 81 years old.
Bonita describes MAID as “a compassionate medical option for people who want to choose the end of their lives.” She emphasized the importance of it being a compassionate option and choice.
“So giving people the option to say when they’ve had enough and that they want to go down that path, their choice, is great.”
Alex Muir, president of Metro Vancouver’s Dying with Dignity Canada, said people need to remember it’s a person’s choice. The person must apply, meet the medical criteria, and undergo two independent medical assessments to ensure eligibility.
MAID became legal in Canada in 2016.
In recent years, Muir has said that most of the controversies surrounding him have been related to people with disabilities. The results of a poll conducted by the Angus Reid Institute and published in November 2020 found that 65% of Canadians surveyed were concerned that seniors and people with disabilities would gain access to MAID.
They are afraid that some people use it so as not to overload others.
“Some people argue that you shouldn’t allow people with disabilities access to MAID and that’s not fair,” Muir said, adding that it’s important to remember that those people also have to meet the criteria for access. medical fitness and follow the same steps to get approved. .
According to Health Canada, the number of British Columbians using MAID in 2021 was 2,030, an increase of 1,836 from 2016.
Eighty percent of Canadians surveyed in the Angus Reid poll said it should be easier to make their living conditions easier. Of those surveyed, 33 percent were in favor of MAID, while the remaining 67 percent were cautiously for or against.
The survey also found that those outright against it were often religious, members of visible minorities, or born outside of Canada.
Some healthcare providers will not perform MAID because of how it conflicts with their personal beliefs. The government of British Columbia has stated in these cases that “healthcare providers must not discriminate against people who make this request (for MAID) and must ensure effective transfer of care if ‘they choose not to provide this care themselves’.
Church hospitals and hospices remain exempt from the obligation to provide medical assistance for dying, including St. Paul’s Hospital in Vancouver.
On March 17, 2023, Bill C-7, the law governing who can access MAID in Canada, will change again. After this date, people with a mental disorder as the only medical condition will be able to access MAID if they meet all eligibility requirements. The government has formed an expert group on maids and mental disorders, which published 19 recommendations in May 2022.
These recommendations will help the government decide how best to support the goal of administering MAID safely and compassionately.
Carolyn Bennett is Canada’s Minister of Mental Health.
“I feel the weight in ensuring that the government moves forward with MAID for people with mental disorders in a way that is consistent with the goals of autonomy, justice and respect,” she said.
While an expert panel determined that proper safeguards were in place, in mid-December the federal government announced its intention to legislate an additional delay. He didn’t say how long.
“Not everyone is ready,” said Attorney General David Lametti.
The House of Commons and Senate have been adjourned and should resume work at the end of January.
Madeline Li, a cancer psychiatrist who sits on several MAID-related committees, says the Liberal government is still developing practice guidelines for cases of patients whose only underlying condition is a mental disorder. As of December, she said, a draft guideline was still undergoing peer review.
Once finalized, Li said they will be sent to provincial and territorial agencies for regulatory approval and then integrated into professional practice through medical schools.
– With files from James Smith and The Canadian Press
Fraser Healthmedical assistance for dyingSurrey