Why a N.S. woman is opting for assisted death earlier than she planned
A Nova Scotia woman who is opting for a medically assisted death says she will die earlier than planned because she’s worried she will lose the opportunity altogether, since the law stipulates she must be able to consent at the time of the procedure.
Audrey Parker is currently receiving palliative care for her Stage 4 breast cancer. The 57-year-old Halifax woman has been approved for medical assistance in dying scheduled for Nov. 1 – a few months earlier than she would have preferred.
Because the disease has spread to her bones and the lining of her brain, Parker is worried her cognitive abilities will decline if she waits to go through with it any longer.
If the laws were different and Parker was able to provide her consent in advance, she said she would have tried to hold out a little longer.
“I love Christmas. It’s my favourite holiday of the year. I would have really tried to hang on until after Christmas,” she told CTV’s Your Morning on Tuesday.
Canada’s medical assistance in dying law came into effect in June 2016. It requires eligible applicants to have a serious illness, disease, or disability; be in an advanced state of decline that cannot be reversed; experience unbearable physical or mental suffering; and be at the point where a natural death is reasonably foreseeable.
The law also states that patients must be able to provide their “informed consent” both at the time of the request and immediately before they receive the assisted death.
Parker said she thinks she should only be required to give her consent ahead of the procedure so she can still receive it if her mental function deteriorates.
“I just don’t think it’s fair,” she explained. “I applaud them for making medical assistance in dying legal in Canada, but I feel that they didn’t have the courage to go all the way and make it a good and fair law.”
Legislators have argued that the strict eligibility criteria safeguard against potential abuses, such as someone pressuring a relative to have an assisted death for their own financial gain.
“I am the norm and those situations are the exception to the norm,” she said. “I think it should be a law that suits everyone and there are measures in place to take care of the exceptions to the rule.”
Parker said she never dreamed she would become an advocate on the subject, but the thought of helping those who might experience her dilemma in the future has become a newfound passion that has helped her cope with her illness.
“I really want to make my life and my death feel like it’s all worth it,” she said.
“I’ve shown people that if you do get a terminal diagnosis, you don’t have to curl up in a ball and go lie somewhere until you pass away. I’ve shown that you can live a really good life, pack in as much joy as you can, and part of that is taking control of your death.”
The Halifax woman said she has already planned a “beautiful death” for herself at home.
“I’m just making the best of all my days until that day comes,” she said.