Physician-assisted suicide advocate ends her life
Published Friday, September 25, 2015 10:00PM EDT
One of Canada’s most outspoken advocates of physician-assisted dying ended her life this week, saying in a final note that she couldn’t wait for politicians to act on new legislation.
Albertan Donna DeLorme, who suffered from progressive MS, wanted a doctor to help her die. But as she watched the federal election campaign unfold, DeLorme found that the major parties were refusing to say whether or not they’d meet the Supreme Court-ordered February 2016 deadline for new assisted dying laws.
On Wednesday, DeLorme quietly died at home in Calgary. For legal reasons, DeLorme did not provide details on how she ended her life. Physician-assisted dying is still in legal limbo for patients and doctors until new laws come into effect.
On Feb. 15, 2015, the courts gave Canadian lawmakers a year to draft new laws that recognize the right of consenting adults in mental or physical pain to seek help from the medical community to end their lives.
A panel was appointed to consult experts and the public before providing the government with options for the new legislation.
But the contentious issue has received little attention from federal leaders in debates or on the campaign trail.
In a note submitted to Dying with Dignity Canada, DeLorme explained why she couldn’t wait for politicians to act.
“Some politicians have suggested they may ask for a stay of this decision, which will only result in further suffering for many people, myself included,” DeLorme wrote, adding later: “The people making these decisions on our behalf are probably in a very different position than me.
“They might have a good life. They’re probably not lying in bed hoping the next caregiver shows up so they can be helped to eat, drink, and have a bowel movement.”
DeLorme also details how she was once a vibrant healthy woman left disabled by unforeseen illness.
“If life were not so hard, we would never think of asking for a doctor’s help to end it,” DeLorme wrote.
Wanda Morris, CEO of Dying with Dignity Canada, said DeLorme was not a “publicity” seeker.
“She was somebody who was making a heartfelt appeal so that others wouldn’t have to suffer,” Morris told CTV News.
Quebec will begin to allow doctor-assisted death in December. But the rest of the provinces will have to wait until after the Oct. 19 federal election for guidance from Ottawa.
University of Manitoba bioethicist Arthur Schafer sits on an expert panel created to help provinces determine how to implement changes.
He acknowledged that not much is being said about physician-assisted suicide on the campaign trail.
“The politicians aren’t discussing it because there are votes to be lost and probably very few to be won on this issue,” Schafer told CTV News.
In terms of public opinion, Canadians are “overwhelmingly supportive,” but Schafer said that there is a “small, vociferous and passionate group, mostly of people who are religious, who oppose this and in order not to alienate them, politicians are simply not talking about it.”
With a report by CTV News medical specialist Avis Favaro and producer Elizabeth St. Philip