Nova Scotia

Halifax woman posthumously calls for fix to Canada's assisted dying rules

In a video uploaded Wednesday, Audrey Parker — who died Nov. 1, 2018 — says people are dying earlier than necessary because late-stage consent is needed to invoke medical assistance in dying (MAID).

Audrey Parker says people are dying earlier than necessary because late-stage consent requirement

Audrey Parker made a video three days before she died asking Canada to make a change to its assisted dying law so that late-stage consent isn't needed to invoke medical assistance in dying. (Dying with Dignity Canada)

A Halifax woman who died in November is posthumously calling for an amendment to Canada's assisted dying laws that would get rid of a requirement for late-stage consent to invoke medical assistance in dying, also known as MAID.

"People like me who have already been assessed and approved are dying earlier than necessary because of this poorly thought-out law," Audrey Parker said in the video released by Dying with Dignity Canada on Wednesday.

The video was launched Feb. 6, the four-year anniversary of the Supreme Court of Canada ruling in favour of medical assistance in dying. 

But that ruling came with a stipulation: it only applied to competent adults with enduring, intolerable suffering who could clearly consent to ending their lives.

Parker had terminal cancer and chose to die Nov. 1, 2018.

She said she would have liked to have made it to Christmas, but worried that if she became incompetent along the way, she would lose out on her choice of a "beautiful, peaceful and — best of all — pain free death."

Her amendment to Canada's assisted dying law would be to allow people who are approved for MAID to continue with their wishes, even if they lose their mental capacity.

"I can assure you that no one chooses death lightly, we just don't want to suffer anymore," Parker said.

Parker's friend, Kim King, said she and other people who were close to Parker have been working with Dying with Dignity Canada to help move the amendment forward. 

They envision an amendment could be something like an additional form or declaration that would clarify what should happen if someone who wants MAID loses mental capacity or becomes unconscious.

King said Parker started thinking about making a video when she found out her cancer was moving to the lining of her brain. It was then they realized Parker could lose her mental capacity and then lose her ability to invoke MAID.

"It was really, really upsetting. It took something that was so comforting to Audrey, you know, to have that control and it took it away. And therefore made her have to take the courageous step to end her life early," King said.

King said Parker shot the video three days before she died. She said it was Parker's final message to lawmakers and Canadians.

"It was really having that final poignant message thanking the lawmakers for the fact we even have MAID but clearly pointing out there is a flaw in this law with the late-stage consent."

King said watching the video is difficult, especially knowing how much pain Parker was in at the time. She said Parker shines in the video because her message was important.

"When you look at the video, Audrey looked beautiful and I think she was really standing in her own power," King said.

"She never thought she would be an advocate. This was a very unexpected change at the end of her life and she was really, really passionate about it."

King said she hopes the video will serve as a tool to get Canadians to sign an e-petition on the Dying with Dignity website to send a message to Canada's justice minister to change the legislation to have Parker's amendment passed.

She said the e-petition launched Monday and the goal is to get around 15,000 Canadians to add their names to it.

Justice minister responds to campaign

On Wednesday, federal Justice Minister David Lametti responded to Parker's campaign by reiterating what his predecessor, Jody Wilson-Raybould, said on the issue in November.

"Our government passed legislation on medical assistance in dying which struck the right balance between personal autonomy for those seeking access to medically assisted dying and protecting the vulnerable," Lametti said.

He said the government will continue to review how medical assistance in dying is applied in practice.

"In the coming months, I look forward to speaking with Canadians about how the medical assistance in dying regime is working for them," Lametti said.

With files from Jerry West


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