Assisted suicide should be legal in Nova Scotia, group says

A Nova Scotia group is hoping the province follows Quebec's lead and passes a law allowing assisted suicide.

Health minister says province not looking at issue

Sheila Sperry, with the group Dying with Dignity, says Nova Scotians should be allowed to legally end their life. (CBC)

A Nova Scotia group is hoping the province follows Quebec's lead and passes a law allowing people with terminal illnesses to legally end their lives.

Quebec politicians passed the law on Thursday. It gives terminally ill patients the right to ask doctors to end their lives, though doctors are permitted to refuse.

Sheila Sperry applauds the move in Quebec. Her husband Drew died two years ago from ALS, an illness that leaves the mind intact but destroys the body.

“My husband from the very beginning always said, ‘I do not want and I will not end up trapped inside my body gasping like a fish on the wharf,’” Sperry told CBC News on Friday.

He died before that happened. But the experience prompted Sperry to start a Nova Scotia chapter of Dying with Dignity.

She urges Nova Scotia politicians to pay attention to what’s happening in Quebec.

“I’m extremely glad for no other reason, really, that it opens the discussion,” said Sperry.

RCMP investigated assisted death

Sunday marks the 7th anniversary of the assisted death of Eric MacDonald’s wife Elizabeth.

The couple travelled to Switzerland, where assisted death has been legal since 1971, when her multiple sclerosis became too much for her to bear.

“She did die as she wanted to do, in my arms, which was a good thing,” MacDonald said.

RCMP investigated when MacDonald returned to Canada, but no charges were laid.

To opponents of assisted suicide who worry about abuse of legislation, MacDonald said that in places like Switzerland, there is little evidence of abuse.

Government not ready

But the Nova Scotia government isn’t ready to look at the issue.

“I think we’ll see a discussion, but our government and the department at this time has not been looking at this particular issue,” said Health Minister Leo Glavine.

Glavine said work is underway on a province-wide palliative care system and he wants to hear what Nova Scotians think.

He also said assisted suicide hasn’t been a big issue in the province.

Regardless, Sperry argues, people should have the choice, whether they use it or not.