Author Lawrence Hill speaks out about his mother's journey to medically assisted death
'It was sad. It was beautiful. She was radiant.'
After fighting for the human rights of Ontarians for 65 years, Donna Mae Hill had to travel to Switzerland to get what her country would not grant her: a medically assisted death.
Born in the U.S., Hill came to Canada and became "one of those immigrants who became more Canadian than a Canadian in terms of her passion for Canada," her son, author Lawrence Hill, told CBC Radio's Metro Morning on Monday.
"She had to go somewhere that would accommodate her wishes and my fury is based on the fact that Canada failed her. Canada failed to give her, to allow her what I believe should be a fundamental human right," said Hill, who is best-known for his 2007 novel The Book Of Negroes.
Listen to the full interview below:
In the 1980s, Donna Mae Hill and her husband Daniel joined the end-of-life rights organization Dying with Dignity.
Diagnosed with bipolar disorder, she spent decades cycling through good and bad years filled with hospitalizations, medications and visits to psychiatrists.
She nursed her husband, who was a diabetic, through three amputations, dialysis, infections and constant pain over the last 10 years of his life.
"That made her even more adamant in her belief that she did not want to go like that," Hill told Metro Morning. "She told us regularly…she wanted to die with dignity — quickly, painlessly and in control of things when her time came."
Finally, on June 17, 2016, Canada's Medical Assistance in Dying law passed. It allows mentally competent adults with a serious illness, disease or disability and whose natural death has become reasonably foreseeable to end their life with a doctor's assistance.
But when Hill formally applied for a medically assisted death at Sunnybrook Health Sciences Centre, she was declined because her natural death was not considered imminent or reasonably foreseeable, said her son. She attempted suicide three times. She asked her sons to help her. She had no choice but to fly to Switzerland.
On May 17, at the age of 90, Donna Mae Hill died with her son and her granddaughter Malaika by her side.
"It was sad. It was beautiful. She was radiant," Hill said.
With files from Metro Morning