Sooke woman seeks changes in assisted dying law

Family’s ordeal has spurred a petition to Parliament

When Dana Livingstone’s mother Irma was diagnosed with Alzheimer’s disease in 2014, she immediately made it clear to her daughter that she wanted to make arrangements for a medically-assisted death.

Her fear was that she would suffer through the disease and slowly lose her mental faculties until she got to a point where, as she put it, “they’ll throw me into a crazy house.”

It was not the way she wanted to die, but in the end, it very nearly was.

“My mother was an artist. A strong, caring woman and someone who deserved far more respect than she was given as the disease stole her away from us,” Livingstone said.

The situation was exacerbated by family conflicts, with disputes flaring over issues like power of attorney, distribution and control of assets, and whether her mother could be cared for in the home and who should provide that care.

“Finally, one day my father called an ambulance because he had been told that if he did that, she would be transferred to a facility where she would receive the care she needed,” Livingstone said.

“He was wrong.”

RELATED: Irma Livingstone’s story

Livingstone described how, when the ambulance was taking her away, her mother was still ambulatory and lucid and complained bitterly that she did not want to go.

Despite her protests, she was taken away, and committed under the Mental Health Act on the basis of the signatures of two doctors.

What followed was a horrific series of events in which her mother was heavily sedated and drugged and, according to Livingstone, ended up spiralling down further into the disease.

Finally, after a lengthy period of lobbying and advocacy, her mother was released into Livingstone’s custody and the situation improved.

“All of this could have been avoided,” explained Livingstone.

“My mother knew what could happen and didn’t want to end her life that way. She was in full command of her faculties and she wanted to die surrounded by her loved ones and on her own terms. Had her wishes been honoured, she could have been saved a lot of suffering. Unfortunately, Canadian law did not afford her that option. Although Bill C-14 does allow for medical assistance in dying, there is a problem for Alzheimer’s patients.

RELATED: BC boosts funding

The bill, passed on June 17, 2016, prohibits advance requests for medical assistance in dying that would allow eligible individuals to consent to an assisted death through a binding directive that could be honoured after the person loses capacity. That stipulation discriminates against patients with a degenerative condition such as Alzheimer’s because, by the time they can demonstrate that they are enduring unrelenting and incurable suffering, they are often not judged to be mentally competent enough to make the choice for a medically assisted death.

It’s for that reason that Livingstone has launched a petition that will compel the House of Commons to debate a change to the law.

RELATED: Sign the petition

The petition requires 500 signatures and has the support of Esquimalt-Saanich-Sooke MP Randall Garrison.

“I understand that this is a complex issue but there are other organizations that have already taken notice of the situation and are lobbying for change – groups like Dying With Dignity Canada,” Livingstone said.

“The point is that no one should have to die the way my mother did. We need to change this law so people can have the supports they need to face their end in a dignified manner.”

Irma Livingstone died 2½ months ago and her daughter is intent upon making her death the impetus for change in how Alzheimer’s patients are treated.

Bill C-14, passed on June 17, 2016, prohibits advance requests for medical assistance in dying, which would allow eligible individuals to consent to an assisted death through a binding directive that could be honoured after the person loses capacity;

Just Posted

Budget surpasses $3m for ‘absolutely necessary’ Lubbe Dam work

Reservoir represents about 30 per cent of the total storage in the Goldstream Water Supply System

Langford mayor says City threatened during meeting over speculation tax

Stew Young says he wants Langford exempt from tax

City of Victoria reaches impasse on hosting a casino, votes to never reply to BCLC

Conflict between legal concerns and reconciliation push decision ‘into the ether’

School district reconsiders late French for Cedar Hill, but Central is out

District says space at Central at capacity, while Cedar Hill has room

Rare ‘super blood wolf moon’ takes to the skies this Sunday

Celestial event happens only three times this century

Scientists ID another possible threat to orcas: pink salmon

For two decades, significantly more of the whales have died in even-numbered years than in odd years

B.C. dangerous offender in court for violating no-contact order, sends letter to victim

Wayne Belleville was shocked to see a letter addressed to him from his shooter, Ronald Teneycke

Judge denies requests from Calgary couple charged in son’s death

David and Collet Stephan wanted $4 million to pay for past and future legal bills

Explosion sends B.C. firefighter to hospital

Kelowna fire crews responded to a blaze at Pope’sGallery of BC Art & Photography on Friday

Ex-Mountie investigating ‘Surrey six’ murders pleads guilty to obstruction

Derek Brassington entered his plea in B.C. Supreme Court on Friday

Man blames his loud car radio, sirens for crash with B.C. ambulance

Tribunal rejects bid to recoup ICBC costs after crash deemed 100-per-cent his fault

Ferry from Port Hardy to Bella Coola expected to set sail this summer

Its first in-service route will sail in central coast waters on May 18, 2019.

Fashion Fridays: Inspirational gym outfits

Kim XO, helps to keep you looking good on Fashion Fridays on the Black Press Media Network

Most Read