LATEST ON MAID – SOME HOPE: SOME DESPAIR

Let’s start with some great news. After passage of Bill C-7 on March 17, 2021, the Alzheimer’s Society of Canada (ASC) announced revision of their policy on MAiD.

https://alzheimer.ca/en/help-support/im-caring-person-living-dementia/end-life-care/medical-assistance-dying

This is a major and significant change. After the announcement of the original form of MAiD in 2016, the Society’s Policy was completely opposed. Stalled for review in 2019, it came out in 2020 with a completely neutral stance – not opposed; not in favour – and don’t initiate discussion. Staff could provide information upon request, but no active assistance.

YOUR LIFE – YOUR CHOICE DEMENTIA CONNECTIONS

The new MAiD is in. Individuals and local chapters of ASC may now provide information and counselling assistance when requested. Without directly saying it, the fundamental tenant of the Law and Dying With Dignity Canada (www.dwdc.ca) is in …

You know I have dementia … and since my diagnosis, I have been committed to learning as much as I can about the disease and then advocating about dementia right across Canada. Early on, I became involved with the provision of Medical Assistance in Dying (MAiD). Initially, people with dementia were excluded, but recent changes to the law have enabled choice for people with dementia to access MAiD.

MAiD is not all that matters: better understanding of dementia and supports matter more. There are many information sources – some good – and many, not so good. If you want MAiD, go to Dying With Dignity (www.dwdc.ca). They have the most inclusive and definitive information about MAiD in Canada. But if you want more information about dementia and supports, we are lucky. Nurtured in the West and now growing across Canada, we have Dementia Connections – a magazine in both print and digital formats available wherever you are.

As an example, I have referenced my article about Critical Times for MAiD which has just been released in digital format.

https://dementiaconnections.ca/critical-times-medical-assistance-in-dying/

My words may be useful, but check the accompanying references in and at the end of the article. This is the ultimate quality of Dementia Connections – more access to more information. If you’re interested in dementia, you can be connected.

A SWISS PERSPECTIVE

Toby Stewart is an avid supporter of MAiD. Like many, he claims it doesn’t go far enough. For example, he recently sent me he sent me the following reference to “Exit International” an organization supporting a freer access to personal choice and responsibility for suicide. For example, take a look at the story of Rhys Habermann and his trials in Australia. Then look at Exit’s comments re Canadian MAiD changes and the two safeguards for euthanasia in Switzerland.

https://www.exitinternational.net/wp-content/uploads/2021/05/eDelivMay2021-1.pdf

MAiDHOUSE

Right here in Canada. Not too soon and definitely required. This is a home where families and people receiving MAiD may go to be together at this most precious time. We’ve come a long way since one of our earlier MAiD recipients had to be attended in a bus shelter on the street after being denied access to a Catholic Hospital in the freezing winter cold of Edmonton.

Even without Covid, most hospital and hospices are not able to accommodate extra people in their treatment wards.

MAiDHouse has begun, and it’s ably led by Tekla Hendrickson who contacted Dr. Ellen Wiebe, and Senator Pamela Wallin, and myself to be part of a panel on Advance Requests. You can watch the panel discussion below … and please take a look at the description of MAiDHouse following.

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=_RiJL2NtfPY&t=11s

MAiDHouse Description: https://www.maidhouse.ca/about-us

ADVANCE REQUESTS

While Bill C-7 amended MAiD to provide some access for people with dementia, it did not go far enough. It stopped at providing Advance Requests. In becoming acquainted with MAiDHouse (see Tekla’s description), I found reference to a Director for MAiDHouse – Dr. Wayne Sumner. Wayne is a Professor Emeritus from the University of Toronto. He specializes in ethics (particularly bioethics) and is the author of six books, most recently Assisted Death: A Study in Ethics and Law (2011), and Physician-Assisted Death: What Everyone Needs to Know (2017).

Here is a brief summary of a recent paper by Dr. Sumner …

“Advance Requests for Medically-Assisted Dying”

“As things now stand, a person who anticipates future incapacity due to such conditions as severe dementia or permanent unconsciousness can execute a written directive refusing further medical treatment under those conditions, including treatment necessary to sustain life. However, the current MAiD law does not allow the same person to write a directive requesting MAiD under the same conditions. I argue that this inconsistency between advance refusals and advance requests is indefensible. Thus, the federal government must amend the legislation to allow advance MAiD requests, both before and after diagnosis of a grievous and irremediable medical condition.”

Dr. Wayne Sumner, Director, MAiDHouse

His full paper may be obtained here … Advance Requests

I have written and spoken frequently about Advance Requests and Dr. Sumner’s words provide a much needed authority. Senator Pamela Wallin is another authority from both a legislative perspective and as a dementia care-giver. During the debates on Capital Hill, she reached out to me and we created a podcast …

https://www.buzzsprout.com/1154654/7609639

for use with her colleagues and any others who may wish to listen.
Well, unfortunately the pandemic has intervened and because of a wide variety of political conflicts, further development of a better MAiD has become a dream for the future. We need Advance Requests and Pamela Wallin is our champion. It’s just going to take awhile.

OTHER ALTERNATIVES

At this stage of my life, I am running out of time … and while not desirable, we can use other, older forms of suicide (legal since 1972). Some choose to manipulate medications or just choose to not eat or drink. Today, it’s called VSED (Voluntary Stopping to Eat or Drink). Consider Thaddeus Pope, a professor from Minnesota who has been studying MAiD in Canada.

Note: Physician assisted death – in limited aspects – is available in very few States of the USA.

He wrote to tell me …

…the best we can do in the USA is a dementia directive that directs no hand/spoon feeding. I cover that option in a book coming out this summer…

Thaddeus Mason Pope, JD, PhD, HEC-C
Health Law Professor & Bioethicist

https://global.oup.com/academic/product/voluntarily-stopping-eating-and-drinking- 9780190080730?cc=us&lang=en&

I am going to read his book. Here is a video of his recent remarks to the Canadian Bioethics Society …

Seven Obstacles Thwart Patients with Dementia from Accessing MAiD. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=xKd5Lojlgo8

WHAT’S NEXT

From a legal perspective – not much. Everything is in a ‘hold’ position until Parliament resumes and that may not be until after an election late this summer or Fall. Like me, Senator Wallin can only grind her teeth and hope for some candidacy which is better informed. Otherwise, we’ll be subjected to a long series of Court cases like Truchon and Gladue (2019) to remake MAiD into some better semblance of the original direction of the Supreme Court of Canada (Carter, 2015) provided to the House of Commons.

There are thousands of Canadian who will suffer needlessly, but MAiD is a reality and however insufficient, it does offer some a ‘Beacon of Hope.’ It’s all the others who can’t get over the so-called safeguards and precautions. There are many stories: here are just two from the ‘blog’ section of DWDC …

https://www.dyingwithdignity.ca/rogers_story

https://www.dyingwithdignity.ca/john_scully_story

MAiD can be better. We can have Advance Requests. We can include those with mental illnesses, and even minors like Tracey Latimer. We can help those with illnesses and diseases for which the medical profession admittedly cannot help.

Let’s hope.

One thought on “LATEST ON MAID – SOME HOPE: SOME DESPAIR”

  1. Well said Ron… as usual! Thanks for the nod to my Exit link and the Swiss — death choice as a human right… which we can ‘hope’ might someday (sooner than later) be the legal basis for our own Country.
    Please STay Well;
    Toby

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