Support growing for physician-assisted death

Support for the right to choose how a person wants to die is gaining momentum in Victoria.

On the heels of one of Canada’s first physician-assisted deaths, support for the right to choose how a person wants to die is gaining momentum in Victoria.

Dying with Dignity Canada, a national organization committed to improving quality of dying and expanding end-of-life choices, recently launched its first Victoria chapter.

“I’m very interested in having choice at the end of life,” said Victoria resident and chapter co-chair Ellen Agger. “If I’m hit by a car, I don’t have a choice. But if I get some kind of illness that has an outcome of death, then I would like to be able to choose the manner and time that I die.”

Agger first started thinking about end-of-life options when she was in her 30s. She would have discussions with her mother about the types of treatment they would prefer.

But the discussion turned into reality when her mother was diagnosed with a fast-progressing dementia.

She lost the ability to feed, bathe, clean and care for herself. Whenever she spoke, Agger could not understand her. Her mother passed away a year and five months after diagnosis.

Seven years ago, her father was diagnosed with lung cancer and suffocated to death.

“I want to control how I die. I want to die peacefully. I want it to be a gentle death, I don’t want to suffer,” Agger said.

Support has been growing for physician-assisted dying in Victoria.

The group has more than 320 supporters in Greater Victoria and 850 on the Vancouver and Gulf islands.

According to Agger, there’s been a shift in how people think about death and more people are comfortable with talking about the idea of dying.

Under Canada’s current laws, it is a crime to assist another person in ending their life.

However, two recent Supreme Court decisions allow exemptions if certain criteria are met.

Last month, a special joint committee on physician-assisted dying released a 70-page report with 21 recommendations on new federal legislation to enable physician-assisted dying.

Recommendations include medical assistance in dying be made available to individuals with terminal and non-terminal medical conditions that cause intolerable suffering; that the federal government work with provinces and territories to ensure all publicly funded health care institutions provide medical assistance in dying; and medical-assisted dying can be carried out if two physicians are present.

Victoria MP Murray Rankin was the vice-chair of the committee which heard from 61 groups and more than 100 written submissions about physician-assisted deaths.

Rankin said he’s hopeful new federal legislation will be passed in June based on the recommendations put forward.

“I’m satisfied with our job of protecting the vulnerable. We took that very, very seriously,” Rankin said.

“I’m hopeful, having heard from witnesses and trying to make the judgements we were asked to make, that the government will see this as a positive report . . . and the bill will be drafted along similar lines.”

In an emailed statement a spokesperson with the Vancouver Island Health Authority said “The direction the federal government takes in response to the Supreme Court’s ruling will determine how we proceed in B.C. I expect there will be strong direction provided by the provincial government and the College of Physicians and Surgeons, which Island Health would follow.”

The issue has sparked debate between people for and against physician-assisted dying, after a Calgary woman was granted the right to physician-assisted death last week.

She travelled to Vancouver to end her life with the help of two physicians last week.

 

 

Get local stories you won't find anywhere else right to your inbox.
Sign up here

Just Posted

Victoria police are asking for help locating Izabel Villeneuve, 14, who was last seen Jan. 19. (Courtesy of Victoria Police Department)
Victoria police seek help locating missing 14-year-old

Izabel Villeneuve was last seen in the morning of Jan. 19

Provincial health officer Dr. Bonnie Henry updates B.C.’s COVID-19 situation at the legislature, Jan. 11, 2021. (B.C. government)
Vancouver Island smashes COVID-19 high: 47 new cases in a day

Blowing past previous records, Vancouver Island is not matching B.C.s downward trend

The Boys and Girls Club of Greater Victoria says sale of the planned subdivision will increase the club’s ability to provide services and support. (Courtesy of Association for the Protection of Rural Metchosin)
Victoria Boys and Girls Club says youth would benefit from Metchosin land sale

Club says sale will guarantee supports and programs at time when demand high

Jan. 21 marks the 21st day of the 21st year of the 21st century, according to some. (Black Press Media file photo)
The 21st day of the 21st year of the 21st century is upon us – maybe

Milestone won’t be back for another 100 years

Environment Canada is forecasting snow for the east Vancouver Island region the weekend of Jan. 23. (Black Press file)
Up to 15 cm of snow forecast for Vancouver Island this weekend

Snow on Malahat to begin Saturday night, according to Environment Canada

Businesses continue to struggle under COVID-19 restrictions as the pandemic reaches the one-year mark. (B.C. government)
Another 564 COVID-19 cases, mass vaccine plan coming Friday

15 more deaths, community cluster declared in Williams Lake

Anyone with information on any of these individuals is asked to call 1-800-222-TIPS (8477) or visit the website victoriacrimestoppers.ca for more information.
Greater Victoria Crime Stoppers wanted list for the week of Jan. 19

Greater Victoria Crime Stoppers is seeking the public’s help in locating the… Continue reading

Premier John Horgan leaves the podium following his first press conference of the year as he comments on various questions from the media in the Press Gallery at B.C. Legislature in Victoria, B.C., on Monday, January 13, 2020. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Chad Hipolito
Interprovincial travel restrictions a no-go, Horgan says after reviewing legal options

The B.C. NDP government sought legal advice as concerns of travel continue

Gem Lake Top, at Big White Ski Resort, seen at Jan. 8. (Big White Ski Resort)
Big White cancels $7.3M in lift tickets, accommodations due to COVID-19 orders

Since November, the ski resort has been forced to make several changes

Darlene Curylo scratched a $3M ticket, BCLC’s largest ever scratch and win prize. (BCLC)
Kelowna woman in shock after winning BCLC’s largest-ever instant-ticket prize

Darlene Curylo couldn’t believe her eyes when she saw the amount of money she’d won from a scratch ticket

While each person has different reasons for becoming homeless, a UBCO study shows they learn through their interactions with different services to perform ‘as homeless’ based on the expectations of service providers. (Contributed)
Kelowna homeless forced to ‘perform’ for resources, says UBCO study

One participant in the study said ‘It is about looking homeless, but not too homeless’

Aquaculture employee from Vancouver Island, Michelle, poses with a comment that she received on social media. Facebook group Women in Canadian Salmon Farming started an online campaign #enoughisenough to highlight the harassment they were facing online after debates about Discovery Islands fish farms intensified on social media. (Submitted photo)
Female aquaculture employees report online bullying, say divisive debate has turned sexist

Vancouver Island’s female aquaculture employees start #enoughisenough to address misogynistic comments aimed at them

Mowi Canada West’s Sheep Pass salmon farm, the company’s final B.C. operation to receive certification from the Aquaculture Steward Council. The Canadian Federation of Agriculture (CFA) is questioning a government decision to phase out salmon farms in the Discovery Islands. (Photo supplied by Mowi Canada West)
Canadian Federation of Agriculture backs B.C. salmon farmers

Letter to prime minister calls for federal “champion” for aquaculture growth

Most Read