Finding the Ultimate Middle - The Orca
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Finding the Ultimate Middle

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We describe intractable issues as ‘life or death’ – so what happens when the issue is literally life or death?

Let’s talk about death.

No one wants to face the inevitability of death. Even writing up a Will is hard for most to wrap their head around. As laws evolve, it’s very important to know your rights while getting affairs in order.

This tense topic brings out big emotions, and beliefs – stay with me here. Let’s learn together.

Thanks to science and medical advances, people are living longer, leading to questions around quality of life. When science can keep a person alive is that living? Can living longer sometimes be worse than death?

When the answer to both of those questions are “yes,” the conversation often moves to medical assisted dying or MAiD.

It’s certainly not a conversation anyone wants to have. Yet more and more are going in search of solid information on the laws governing MAiD. There are so many questions around making the decision, finding a physician willing to assist, the impact on loved ones left behind, how mental health and cognitive awareness are assessed, etc.

It’s beyond complicated and is a lot to unpack. So let’s start here:

In June 2016, The Supreme Court of Canada passed a landmark decision to authorize physicians to end the lives of consenting patients under certain strict conditions.

In 2017 my radio day job gave me the opportunity to interview Victoria physician Dr. Stephanie Green, who had spent more than a decade as a GP, followed by a dozen years in maternity and infant care.

Dr. Green spent years bringing babies into the world. But when the laws around MAiD changed, she switched to helping society’s suffering exit on their own terms “without hesitation.”

Dr. Green shared stories of her experiences (with her patients’ consent) and it was very moving. As I listened it struck me how they all seemed to be void of fear. She shared facts surrounding the complicated process of MAiD. (Find out more at solacebc.ca.)

Wrapping up our discussion, Dr. Green said she found helping the suffering human find relief with MAiD more rewarding than delivering babies. She shared surprisingly joyous stories around some of her patients’ final days and hours.

It was eye-opening.

Unsurprisingly, there are a great many challenges associated with MAiD, from religious beliefs to the World Health Organization covenant’s definition of palliative care. Often, the subject gets bogged down in arguments, which has the effect of making it difficult to navigate the discussion with mindfulness and awareness.

Some feel MAiD is a slippery slope that flies in the face of the human experience, or will be abused in numerous horrible ways. Others on the other side feel equally strongly that it’s simply taking too long to give people the right to control their own fate. Wherever you stand, it’s important to try and find some Middle and talk it through.

This Friday, the BC Care Providers Association “Care to Chat” speaker series is all about MAiD. These are moderated discussions on tough topics around Senior Care, specifically.

As mentioned before in this space, I’m part of the sandwich generation. My Dad is in care with late stages Alzheimer’s. There is no doubt in my mind: if he had any inkling of where he’d be today, he would’ve taken steps to include MAiD in his Will.

At this point, there is no option — but might there be, someday?

It is remarkable how many friends and colleagues have loved ones in similar situations. Aging parents not cruising the globe living to the fullest, but rather struggling with the winter of their lives. Some tell tales of elderly couples with clandestine plans to stockpile meds and take matters into their own hands.

It’s a very complex and nuanced topic to tackle – yet tackle it, we will.

If you’re in the Lower Mainland, join me this Friday, 11:30am at the Terminal City Club, as I moderate a discussion between representatives from health authorities, denominational or faith-based institutions, academics and senior advocates.

Get more on this event at bccare.ca.

Jody Vance is a born and raised Vancouverite who’s spent 30 years in both local and national media. The first woman in the history of Canadian TV to host her own sports show in primetime, since 2011 she’s been working in both TV and radio covering news and current affairs.

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