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Canada’s health minister responds to Halifax woman’s pleas to change assisted dying law

Audrey Parker, diagnosed with stage-four breast cancer which had metastasized to her bones and has a tumour on her brain, talks about life and death at her home in Halifax on Tuesday, Oct. 23, 2018. .
Audrey Parker, diagnosed with stage-four breast cancer which had metastasized to her bones and has a tumour on her brain, talks about life and death at her home in Halifax on Tuesday, Oct. 23, 2018. . The Canadian Press/Andrew Vaughan

Update: Audrey Parker has died

Canada’s health minister says she has heard the pleas of a Halifax woman who plans to end her life Thursday with medical assistance.

Audrey Parker, who is terminally ill, says she will be ending her life sooner than she would like because Canada’s assisted dying law is too restrictive.

Ginette Petitpas Taylor says her heart goes out to Parker, and she would change the law for her if she could.

READ MORE: Halifax woman plans to die on Thursday, says Ottawa is forcing early death on her

But the minister says she can’t do that because the government is in the middle of gathering recommendations for amendments.

Parker, diagnosed with Stage 4 breast cancer in 2016, says the two-year-old law will allow her to end her prolonged suffering – but she says the legislation has forced her to choose to die sooner than she would like.

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She says the problem is that anyone approved for a medically assisted death must be conscious and mentally sound at the moment they give their final consent for a lethal injection.

Audrey Parker, diagnosed with stage-four breast cancer which had metastasized to her bones and has a tumour on her brain, talks about life and death at her home in Halifax on Tuesday, Oct. 23, 2018.
Audrey Parker, diagnosed with stage-four breast cancer which had metastasized to her bones and has a tumour on her brain, talks about life and death at her home in Halifax on Tuesday, Oct. 23, 2018. The Canadian Press/Andrew Vaughan

That provision means Parker would be denied her wish to end her life with medical assistance if she were to suddenly become incapacitated by her advanced illness or the pain medication she is taking.

Parker says the law should be changed to allow for so-called advance requests, which would allow her caregiver to administer the lethal drugs even if she was unable to give her consent.

In Ottawa Wednesday, Petitpas Taylor told reporters the federal legislation can’t be altered without completing consultations on potential reforms.

“As health minister, I can tell you if I could change that law for her specifically I would. But as the minister, as a Parliamentarian, we have to have a law in place for all Canadians,” she said.

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She said the issues Parker is raising will be considered in a report being drafted by a panel of experts, which is due by the end of the year.