Opinion| When the End is Nigh: My Life. My Choice.


Christmas may not seem like an appropriate time to address the issue of assisted dying, a term I prefer to assisted suicide, but death doesn’t take a day off.

As the saying goes, there are two things of which you can be certain – death and taxes.

And as far as Christmas goes, I was never much into the religious aspect of it and the fun aspect pretty well left me when there were no longer young children in the house.

So, with mirth cast aside, it is on to more serious stuff, brought on by a story by reporter Jeffrey Ougler in The Sault Star on Wednesday about Sault Area Hospital putting in place policies to ensure that if the facility receives a request for physician-assisted death, it will be in a position to respond.

Although The Canadian Press has reported that at least 87 people in Ontario have died with assistance since the federal legislation was passed in June, Ron Gagnon, the hospital’s chief executive officer and president, would not tell Ougler if any had occurred in the Sault.

“Through the development of our policy, the answer to your question will come,” Gagnon said.

Actually, I am not really all that interested in the number. I am more interested in that, if it is not happening here at the moment, it is going to happen.

Because people here are no different than those elsewhere who have taken advantage of the new legislation. There will be some who, facing a bleak future with painful ending, will want to go out on their own terms.

I am one of them.

I know there are some who believe that man should not meddle in dying, that it is their God’s will how they go.

Fine. Go out however you want. Just don’t tell me how I should go.

SAH has been working on this issue since before the federal legislation became final and apparently had received a “warm” reception from a number of its doctors.

But another quote from Gagnon in Ougler’s story really caught my attention.

“The reality is, there will likely be some of that care delivery happening out in the community,” he said. “It’s highly likely you’re going to see more (doctor-assisted deaths) delivered in the community than you will in the hospital.”

I believe that. After all, a hospital setting is not required for such a procedure. People who are so sick they are already there will be the ones who will avail themselves of assisted death there.

There is no reason all the rest cannot die at home.

I know for myself, if I am ill and don’t die suddenly unexpectedly, in my sleep or in an accident of some kind, I will want to go peacefully at home at a time of my choosing.

In preparation for this, I put the question, on behalf of myself and my wife, who is also on board with the idea, to our doctor.

How did he feel about assisted dying? Would he be there for us?

Seeing value in assisted death, he said he would.

I am not especially looking forward to death but at 84 I know the stopping of the clock is not as far off as it once was.

And I find it very comforting to know that I will not be condemned to a lengthy period of pain leading up to my departure.

Let me tell you, knowing, if the response is positive, of course, leads to peace of mind.

I think others would be wise, if they haven’t already, to follow the same route, to ask their doctors if they will be there for them.

If they won’t be, then they can go ahead and look for alternatives.

I realize a lot of people won’t even want to discuss assisted death in regard to themselves.

The pragmatist in me precluded me from doing anything else.

Doug Millroy can be reached a dmillroy@gmail.com.


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