Not so long ago, medical assistance in dying (MaiD), became legal in Canada. In fact, euthanasia in this country became legal in June of 2016. It’s been eight years of much confusion, complexities, and going back and forth to figure out who qualifies and who can make that judgement call and why they should in the first place.
To say that much is still being sorted out is an understatement. Also, there are those who have considered it as a last resort, not because they want to die, but because they can’t afford to live. Taking care of our most vulnerable should be a top priority but so many fall through the cracks. Never, should a single mother who is disabled, have to consider ending her life because she lacks support. Yet here we are. The sadness of this sends my head spinning as this is not what MaiD is for; we have failed this woman in a colossal way.
The good news is that through much compassion, empathy, and help, I believe she’s managed to relocate to Toronto where the level of care is better and is still with us. This gives me hope.
I’m not against MaiD. However, it needs to make sense. Next year, those who are suffering with mental health issues will also be eligible for medical assistance in dying. This scares me as I have personal experience with suicide. You don’t get over that. However, there are certainly cases where MaiD makes sense such as this one. Unfortunately, he didn’t qualify so was forced to die by suicide and that just breaks open my heart.
It's a case-by-case situation when it comes into effect but I wonder if those that make this call are 1) educated enough to know who should qualify and who should not and 2) are compassionate enough to do the right thing. Mental health is barely supported and still stigmatized even now. We need to look deep within ourselves to ponder on whether or not there are better avenues for personality disorders and depression than assisted death.
As a Registered Therapeutic Counsellor, I’ve also had first experience with a dear friend who chose MaiD. His suffering was great after many years battling leukemia and given that his condition was deteriorating, he made the difficult decision to end his life with assistance.
When this happened, I found myself in a curious spot and left with complex feelings about the situation. These feelings weren’t as difficult as a suicide because it wasn’t abrupt, unexpected, and shocking, but they were similar in that there was confusion. Every person responds differently for different reasons. I chose to support him as best I could as the decision is and always was, his alone. Yet, I still had mixed feelings.
On the one hand, I didn’t want him to suffer as a bedridden frail version of himself who constantly lived in a vivid haze of pain. On the other hand, I certainly didn’t want him to leave this world as he was a bright light of talent who lit up the dark with his words and photographs. He was only in his early 50’s. In the end he left this world on his own terms with his wife by his side and her full support. Yet, he lost a several friends along the way who disagreed with his choice. I wasn't one of them and we emailed back and forth right up to the end. He will be greatly missed.
I understood enough to put myself in his position and know that I’d do the very same thing if it came down to it. No one should be forced to endure endless pain and suffering. The grief I feel for the loss of his lovely soul is immense and I know I’d be feeling the same way had he waited endlessly and painfully for the bitter end. Yet…I’d always know he suffered needlessly knowing the end of his life was always going to come to an untimely close.
I wish to delicately unravel and unpack this complex grief with those who have lost a loved one or even a friend to medical assistance in dying. I believe it needs to be done with unbiased empathy and a lot of grace. We are still coming to terms with what it means for us; the process needs to be gentle.