The Current

Halifax woman, who chose early medically assisted death, gets 'the last say' with her life

Audrey Parker will receive a medically assisted death Thursday. She feared if she waited any longer, she would risk being able to have the procedure.

Audrey Parker wants medically assisted death laws to change to allow booking a future date for procedure

Audrey Parker, 57, will have a medically assisted death today, earlier than she would wish, due to what she calls Canada's "extreme" medical assistance in dying legislation. (Kayla Hounsell/CBC)

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Audrey Parker will die Thursday but she hoped to live a little longer.

The 57-year-old Halifax woman has Stage 4 breast cancer that has spread throughout her bones and to her brain. She feared if she waited any longer, she would risk being able to receive a medically assisted death, which she had already been approved for.

"I've signed the papers, I've had doctors corroborate my want of [medically assisted death] — I think it should stand," Parker told CBC Halifax's Information Morning in September.

According to current federal law, a person approved for medically assisted death must be mentally competent and able to consent — not only at the time of their request, but again immediately before the procedure.

Parker wants the federal government to reconsider what she calls unfair and extreme rules around prohibiting plans for a medically assisted death at a future date.

"We have to ensure that people who decide to use [medically assisted death] are the ones that are having the last say with their life," she previously said.

Regulating advance directives has been recommended by a provincial-territorial expert advisory group and a joint committee of the Senate and House of Commons. In early December, Parliament will be hearing more on this from experts.

Minister of Health Ginette Petitpas Taylor did not respond to The Current's request for comment but told reporters in Ottawa on Wednesday that if she could change the law for Parker's case specifically, she would.

"But as the minister, as a parliamentarian, we have to have a law in place for all Canadians," the minister added.

To explore the logistics between balancing the needs of people like Parker while ensuring people are making sound decisions around death, The Current's guest host Laura Lynch spoke to:

  • Jocelyn Downie, professor of law and health care ethics at the Schulich School of Law at Dalhousie University.
  • Michael Bach, managing director of the Institute for Research and Development on Inclusion and Society.
  • Dr. Kenneth Rockwood, a geriatrician and professor of geriatric medicine at Dalhousie University.

Listen to the full discussion near the top of this page.

With files from CBC News. Produced by Ines Colabrese, Samira Mohyeddin and Danielle Carr.


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