Medical Assistance in Dying
Warning: This is not for the faint of heart. In mid March while I was in Florida I received an email from a Toronto friend in her mid eighties with severe Parkinson’s. She told me that she arranged that on the next day she would receive an injection to end her life.
I knew from previous conversations that she was very unhappy with how limited she felt her life had become since moving into assisted living with her husband.
Audrey and I became friends in 1983 when she worked with me at Children’s Hospital. She went to United Church with her husband, and read Hans Kung. We had some interesting talks over the years about Catholicism and why I stayed.
The night I received the email was generally sleepless. I tossed and turned and didn’t know how to respond. I agree with the Church that palliative care rather than euthanasia is the way to go. So, I did not reply to Audrey’s email, because I didn’t know what to say.
She would have known how conflicted I felt about what she was doing. But I had to do something. Of course I prayed, and I thought as I often do when a friend dies, about what they must be experiencing in the after life. I also felt the need to reach out to her husband who was always very kind. So I purchased a card and wrote him a note saying how much Audrey and his friendship meant to me.
Since there was no funeral, the family decided to have a “Celebration of Life” to which I received an invitation. It is being held in late May, and I am going. My presence there is not condoning Medical Assistance in Dying, but simply supporting the family at this difficult time.
I remember Professor Ovey Mohammed s.j. in Eschatology class telling us that when somebody dies, there are no words that are adequate to express condolence. He said: “just showing up says it all.” I have often given this advice to others who feel helpless and inexperienced about what to say or do when attending funeral services.
I will miss Audrey, and I believe that she now experiences the fullness of life, I will celebrate in May with her friends and family. Rest in peace.