MS sufferer wants to schedule her own death

Canada's assisted dying bill allows for people to access help if they are "suffering intolerably" and their death is "reasonably foreseeable." But Cheri Roberts wants it to go further.

Cheri Roberts wants Bill C-14 to allow for advanced requests for assisted dying

Cheri Roberts, 35, has been living with multiple sclerosis for 10 years and is watching the debate around assisted dying very closely. (Submitted)

Canada's assisted dying bill allows for people to access help if they are "suffering intolerably" and their death is "reasonably foreseeable." 

But Cheri Roberts wants it to go further.

Diagnosed with multiple sclerosis (MS) 10 years ago, Roberts, 35, wants to schedule her death for 10 years from now, when she figures the disease will have advanced far enough to remove quality of life.

"I don't have a lot of family support. As well, my options in regards to pain treatment are going to be fewer because of past issues," she told the Calgary Eyeopener.

"They're saying I have about 10 years more of good [health]. They always aim high so my view is at five years I'll check myself and if I'm still good, I'll give myself a year, up to the maximum of 10 years because I just can't see my body lasting past that."

Cheri Roberts shows off a mug her daughter gave her for Mothers' Day. For Roberts, not wanting to burden her daughter is one of her biggest concerns as symptoms of her MS get more severe. (Submitted)

Roberts began taking opioids when first diagnosed to help manage the pain, but she became addicted and said those are no longer an option for her.

She also worries about becoming a burden, both on the medical system and her 15-year-old daughter.

"I look at like, OK, I'll hit this point and then that will be my end. And to me, that's the better option than looking at having my daughter take care of me or going into a home and hoping somebody is going to come see me once every couple of weeks," she said. 

"That's just not a life for me. I would rather enjoy what I can and be happy and then when it comes, it comes."

Cheri Roberts, a Calgary woman with multiple sclerosis, explains why she wants to arrange her doctor assisted death years in advance. 10:31

That's a sentiment MS Society of Calgary director Darrel Gregory said he's heard before, but isn't always true.

"People will benefit from having an honest, sincere, difficult conversation with their family members," he said. 

"People often feel they are a burden in these situations. And I think that's a perception that doesn't always bear out and it involves having difficult conversations with their support network because I think they'll find there is support in the community through the MS Society or through their family members."

Personal decision

The decision is ultimately a personal one, said Gregory.

"MS is a really complex and complicated disease and people who have progressive forms of the disease, it can be extremely painful and difficult," he said.

"We respect the autonomy of each individual to make that choice. It's not our place to say what is right for each individual, we just want to ensure people have made the effort to reach out for help."

Roberts admitted finances were a partial factor in her thought process.

"For people like me, if you have health issues there's not many options unless you have lots of money," she said. 

"If I had lots of money and could pay for all these medical treatments and alternative therapies and do all this extra little stuff from myself, my MS might be a little bit different. But I don't have that option. I'm a single woman on AISH and this looks like a good option. My other option is to go in a home."

With files by the Calgary Eyeopener