Man seeking doctor-assisted death is 'skeleton' of former self
Family supports decision but court must decide 80-year-old's fate
The elderly Toronto man requesting physician-assisted death says he is ready to escape from "intolerable and unbearable" suffering after living a "wonderful and exciting life."
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The 80-year-old man, who can only be identified as A.B. due to a publication ban, has been dealing with an aggressive form of lymphoma since 2012. His application for a doctor to help end his life will be heard later this month in Ontario Superior Court.
In court documents obtained by CBC News, the man says he is "experiencing a tremendous amount of boney pain, despite receiving pain medication and narcotics."
I have a strong wish to die with dignity at the time of my choosing.— Man seeking doctor-assisted death
Affidavits from the man, his wife and daughter all explain his desire for doctor-assisted death.
"I continue to suffer from extreme dizziness, nausea and profound weakness. I have no control over my bowels or my bladder and the simplest of tasks are beyond my capabilities. I cannot stand on my own or even sit up without assistance," he noted.
"I have care around the clock. I have become a skeleton of the man I was. My suffering is intolerable and unbearable."
'Suffering will likely be extreme'
The man endured chemotherapy in 2012 but said he decided to stop treatment after experiencing severe side effects, which left him hospitalized. He says his symptoms worsened in 2013 and he sought palliative oral chemotherapy.
His symptoms seemed to dissipate before they took another turn for the worse and he began to experience pain last November. He explained how cancer in his spine causes pain to radiate to his abdomen.
The man says he still enjoys speaking with his family and has their support in seeking assisted death. Now that his cancer is no longer responding to treatment, he says this is the best way forward and he is choosing it with his own free will.
"Only when the pain became too much to bear and it became evident that there was no positive outcome did I tum my focus to managing my own death. I have a strong wish to die with dignity at the time of my choosing," he said.
"The decision is mine alone."
His hematologist declared in an affidavit sworn on March 4 that, based on his experience, he expects the man's illness "to progress quickly from this point," adding his life expectancy is less than three months.
"Should he survive longer than that, the pain and suffering will likely be extreme and he will experience a very poor quality of life," the health-care professional wrote.
'It is crippling emotionally'
The man's daughter, who cannot be identified, also backed her father's decision in an affidavit.
"I am not aware of any family members who are not supportive of this application," she said. "My dad fought very hard, emotionally and physically, to recover. He wanted to survive."
There is no greater pain than to feel entirely helpless as you watch someone you love suffer.— Man's daughter in affidavit
She explained how difficult it is to see her father unable to do basic tasks such as using the bathroom.
"It is crippling emotionally to see someone you love in so much pain, so much distress," she said.
She noted how she is proud of her father for fighting cancer for nearly four years and how the family supports his wishes.
"There is no greater pain than to feel entirely helpless as you watch someone you love suffer."
Mental state 'still sharp'
The man's wife, who he calls the love of his life, also filed an affidavit in which she said she believes his suffering is intolerable and that he has seen him express a desire to end his life multiple times.
"I believe that my husband fully understands the information surrounding his condition, prognosis and treatment options. I also believe that his mental state is still sharp, and that he is capable of making the decision to obtain physician-assisted death," she said.