Halifax woman’s fight to change Canada’s assisted-dying law continues after her death
“My last wish is that you, my fellow Canadians, that you will help people who have been assessed and approved [for medically-assisted dying] to live without fear of their rights being taken away.”
Those words were recorded just three days before Audrey Parker died on Nov. 1, 2018.
The Halifax woman died with medical assistance, more than two years after she had been diagnosed with Stage 4 breast cancer.
The video was released Wednesday by Dying With Dignity Canada, as part of the charity’s national campaign to amend Canada’s assisted-dying law.
Parker, 57, had decided to turn to Canada’s assisted-dying law, but soon realized there was a catch: the law dictated that people approved for medically-assisted death had to be conscious and mentally sound at the moment they gave their final consent.
Fearing she would be denied her wish if she eventually became incapacitated, Parker said she was forced to die sooner than she wanted to.
“I’m grateful to live in Canada, a country where I can choose my death. But the law has forced me to play a cruel game of chicken,” she said in the video.
“I would like nothing more than to make it to Christmas, but if I become incompetent along the way, I will lose out on my choice of a beautiful, peaceful and best of all, pain-free death.”
WATCH: Audrey Parker’s friend Kimberley King speaks about continuing Audrey’s fight to amend the country’s assisted dying law.
In a statement, Dying With Dignity Canada’s CEO says Parker’s story reveals the “cruel choices” faced by people who turn to assisted dying. Shanaaz Gokool says the late-stage consent rule leads some people to end their lives before they’re ready, while others refuse proper pain care at the end of life to ensure they’re alert enough to confirm their request of medically-assisted death.
“No one should ever have to choose between spending a few more days or weeks with their loved ones and their right to a peaceful, assisted death,” Gokool said.
“Without the ability to waive the late-stage consent requirement, vulnerable Canadians face a clear, grave threat to their rights. We call on the government to pass Audrey’s Amendment and correct this injustice without delay.”
WATCH: Friend and supporter of Audrey Parker, Kimberley King talks more about Parker’s lasting impact
In the days leading up to her death, Parker spoke openly to the media about her situation and to appeal for change. Her friend, Kimberley King, has taken on that fight and is working to ensure Parker’s amendment becomes reality.
She says Parker chose to die on Nov. 1, 2018 for a reason.
“I know that she did it for herself but I can tell you having been very close to her during those last months especially, she did it because she knew it would make an impact and it would send a very strong message to the government that this law had a big flaw,” King told Global News.
There is also currently an e-petition on Dying With Dignity Canada’s website, which appeals to recently-appointed Justice Minister David Lametti to table the amendment.
In a statement to Global News, Lametti said government was reviewing the findings of an independent report by the Council of Canadian Academies (CCA), which was tabled on Dec. 12, 2018, that looked at issues such as assisted-dying requests from mature minors and advanced requests.
He notes the legislation also requires a Senate committee or House of Parliament review five years after receiving royal assent.
“In the meantime, we will continue to review the CCA reports, and to examine how medical assistance in dying is applied in practice. In the coming months, I look forward to speaking with Canadians about how the medical assistance in dying regime is working for them,” he said.
Last month, Lametti, said he’s interested in hearing proposals concerning late-stage consent.
“I’m interested in watching what happens and what is proposed but I won’t commit the government to doing anything more than that,” he said.
Still, Lametti’s stance is much different than the previous justice minister, Jody Wilson-Raybould, who ruled out any changes to the law.
The law is currently facing two constitutional challenges, one in Quebec and the other in British Columbia, from Canadians with degenerative diseases who contend the foreseeable-death requirement unfairly excludes them.
— With a file from The Canadian Press
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