Nova Scotia

Weldon Bona had to delay dying — and his friends vow no one else will have to wait

Days before he died, Weldon Bona said no one else should suffer while waiting for medical assistance in death. His friends promised to get word out about the struggles he faced in the hopes of helping others.

Days before he died, Weldon Bona said no one else should suffer while waiting for medical assistance in death

Weldon Bona was well-known in the Cape Breton arts community. He spent his last days in a battle to obtain medically assisted death. (Submitted by Clifford Paul)

In his last days, Weldon Bona said it shouldn't be this hard to die.

The Cape Breton man didn't want anyone else to suffer while waiting for a doctor-assisted death.

In an effort to fulfil Bona's wish, his friends organized an educational panel on Thursday held at Cape Breton University entitled: "Your life, your death, your choice."

More than 50 people gathered to learn about medical assistance in death (MAID) from legal and medical professionals.

"All these people are in this room tonight as a consequence of one person and the change that he wanted to see," said Dr. Robyn MacQuarrie, a member of the panel who spoke Thursday.

"I'm sure he wished he had a microphone of his own. His spirit is here in the room with his friends and family and his spirit of community was here in the room tonight, too."

The panel for the discussion on medical assistance in dying held at Cape Breton University. (Norma Jean MacPhee/CBC)

Also on the panel were Sen. James Cowan, and law professor Jocelyn Downie.

"I think Weldon would have been happy about tonight because we had people who came out to talk about the process, so that the next time someone goes through this process, it'll be a little bit easier," said Jennifer Currie, a friend of Bona's and a member of the panel.

"That's truly what he wanted. He didn't want people to have a difficult journey at the end of their life."

Topics covered throughout the evening ranged from remaining legal challenges to the absence of doctors in Cape Breton who offer MAID service.

Merle Richardson was among those in the audience. She said she's considering MAID when her time comes and was glad to get more information.

"The medicine, the drugs that are used and how quick the death is — all of that stuff was clarified," said Richardson.

"All the legal stuff was very interesting."

Bill Forgeron asked the panel why doctors don't just offer palliative care instead of MAID.

More than 50 people gathered to learn more about medical assistance in death at CBU. (Norma Jean MacPhee/CBC)

Downie — a lawyer, law professor and and expert on the subject — provided this answer.

"I don't know any advocate of medical aid in dying who doesn't support palliative care, they are not inconsistent, they are not incompatible," she said.

"Medical assistance in dying and palliative care — it is one continuous spectrum of end-of-life care."

Downie encouraged people to advocate for improvements to the current medical assistance in dying legislation — and to support doctors who offer the service — so that more doctors will step forward. 

MacQuarrie is one of 20 medical professionals offering the service in Nova Scotia and is often called upon to speak about the topic.

Dr. Robyn MacQuarrie addresses the room at CBU during the discussion on medical assistance in death. (Norma Jean MacPhee/CBC)

She calls herself an "accidental advocate."

"Because I truly feel as a consequence of telling the stories, I've had a couple of docs from Cape Breton put out feelers that 'maybe I'm interested' [in providing MAID] and so I meet them for coffee," said MacQuarrie.  

No physician has confirmed yet, but MacQuarrie is confident for the future. 

About the Author

From people around the corner to those around the world, Norma Jean MacPhee has more than a decade of experience telling their stories on the radio, TV and online. Reach Norma Jean at norma.jean.macphee@cbc.ca