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.

John Montague earned his Master of Divinity from Regis College, University of Toronto. He is an active member of Our Lady of Lourdes Parish. He has a Master of Social Work, and, until his retirement, provided counselling to individuals, couples, and families. For the past seventeen years he has organized a Day of Reflection for Catholic parents of lesbian daughters, gay sons, and transgendered children.

  • Peter Bisson, SJ
    Posted at 02:23h, 09 May Reply

    Thank you John!

  • Barbara Lewis
    Posted at 09:09h, 09 May Reply

    Dearly Beloved,
    A person who chooses to kill a person chooses a violent irreparable solution to a problem.
    The killer has become blind.
    Euthanasia and abortion are violent irreparable choices. An inconvenient person is killed.
    We who proclaim ourselves to be a good person are obliged to be horrified when a sister or brother chooses to kill.
    Perhaps we can understand their choice. That is only human. If you are content with being an only human good person you are no longer salt.
    You are lukewarm.
    God will vomit you.

    The gift is theirs when they share it.

  • Frances Cheung
    Posted at 13:15h, 09 May Reply

    Simply to show up is powerful and consoling. Not easy, though! John, thank you.

  • Philip Shano
    Posted at 17:36h, 09 May Reply

    Thanks for your compassion and your decision to be present at the celebration in May. That is so important, regardless of the circumstances of death.

    • John Montague
      Posted at 08:35h, 10 May Reply

      I very much appreciate your reply to this complex situation Philip. You are a man of insight.

  • Lorella D'Cruz
    Posted at 10:06h, 13 May Reply

    “Judge not that ye be not judged.” Extending your support, love and compassion to Audrey’s family is the kind and decent thing to do in these sad circumstances.

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