Assisted-death bill falls short for dementia patients, says Parksville woman

She and her 85-year-old husband had an end-of-life plan

Ann Arial and her husband Norman were looking forward to the day when the federal government would provide some clarity and relief for those looking to end their lives with dignity.

The Parksville residents said they were less than pleased when they read details of the Liberal government’s Bill C-14, tabled Thursday in the House of Commons.

“We were hoping it would give us a road to how to do it,” Ann said last week. “It was his only hope. It’s so devastating.”

Norman has dementia.

“He’s in very good physical condition, but his mind is going,” said Ann. She said they had hoped the new legislation would provide them with some peace of mind as Norman’s mind deteriorated.

“We thought he could enjoy what life he has now because he would know he wouldn’t have to sit in his own sh** for years.”

Bill C-14, if passed into law in its current form, would limit access to medically assisted suicide to “competent adults” whose death is “reasonably foreseeable” and are suffering “intolerably.” It sets out criteria that has to be met for a person to lawfully end their life with the help of a nurse practitioner or doctor. Mental illness alone is not enough for a person to be eligible for assisted death.

Ann said she and her 85-year-old husband have discussed the issue “thoroughly.” She said they have a plan.

“I would be asking him if it was time and we would go through that several days in a row,” she said. “There were no questions that I was doing it for him.”

Ann said without legal standing to end Norman’s life, she fears he will linger on and she said he doesn’t want to be a burden to Ann in those years.

“He worries about me,” she said. “If he’s in a home for years and years it will financially devastate me.”

Right now, Ann said it would be difficult for an outsider to notice Norman’s illness.

“His heart is strong,” she said. “People can’t believe his age. He walks fast, he’s spry — he’s a good dresser.”

When the bill was tabled and they read the details, Anne said Norman suggested they carry out a plan to end his life regardless. Ann said she is hesitant to break the law.

“I said ‘honey, I’ll just end up in jail’.”

Groups were quick last week to speak against the bill.

“The most shocking aspect of the tabled legislation is its use of vague, unfamiliar language indicating that assisted dying will only be accessible to people whose natural death is ‘reasonably foreseeable’,” said a response on dyingwithdignity.ca. “This means patients suffering from muscular and neurological disorders like amyotrophic lateral sclerosis (ALS), who have active, brilliant minds that are trapped in completely failing bodies, might not qualify.”

MP Gord Johns (NDP, Coutenay-Alberni) was in Ottawa when the bill was tabled on Thursday.

“This is a difficult subject matter for many Canadians but not one we cannot ignore,” Johns told The NEWS through an e-mail. “I am pleased to see the government finally table this legislation last week as required by the Supreme Court, but the new bill also raises new concerns and leaves some questions unanswered. My colleagues and I are still analyzing the full implications of the bill as it proceeds in Parliament and there are some important tests it must go through. The first test of this bill is, does it properly address the Supreme Court ruling, which created the need for new legislation. There are already advocates that say the bill falls short.”

SEE ALSO: Editorial on Page A10 or under Opinion section on website

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