Advocate dies ‘peacefully’ after plea for changes to Canada’s assisted-death law

Audrey Parker, diagnosed with Stage 4 breast cancer in 2016, says the two-year-old law will allow her to end her prolonged suffering

UPDATE: 2 p.m.

A terminally ill Halifax woman ended her life Thursday with medical assistance, after issuing a final deathbed plea asking lawmakers to change Canada’s assisted dying law.

Audrey Parker was given a lethal injection and “died peacefully” in her Halifax apartment, surrounded by close friends and family, friends said in a news release late Thursday afternoon.

“Her death was the beautiful, end of life experience she wanted,” they said.

While the two-year-old law allowed her to end her prolonged suffering, the 57-year-old former image consultant issued a statement earlier in the day, saying the legislation had forced her to choose to die sooner than she would have liked.

“I wanted to make it to Christmas and New Year’s Eve, my favourite time of the year, but I lost that opportunity because of a poorly thought-out federal law,” she wrote in a Facebook post.

But Parker said she loved her life and had no regrets.

“I feel like I’m leaving as my best self and I’m ready to see what happens when I die today,” she wrote. “The one thing I’m happiest about, is that I finally found ‘my people’ during my lifetime. I’ve even met new people that I already adore near the end of my journey so it’s never too late for anything in life.”

Parker stressed that the law had to be changed because anyone approved for a medically assisted death must be conscious and mentally sound at the moment they grant their final consent for a lethal injection — a provision in the law called “late-stage consent.”

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ORIGINAL:

A terminally ill Halifax woman who plans to end her life today with medical assistance has issued a deathbed plea to Canada’s lawmakers, saying the federal assisted dying law must be changed.

Audrey Parker, diagnosed with Stage 4 breast cancer in 2016, says the two-year-old law will allow her to end her prolonged suffering — but she says the legislation has forced her to choose to die sooner than she would like.

The problem, she says, is that anyone approved for a medically assisted death must be conscious and mentally sound at the moment they give their final consent for a lethal injection — a provision called “late stage consent.”

It means Parker would be denied her wish to end her life with medical assistance if she were to suddenly become incapacitated by her advanced illness or the pain medication she is taking.

“Dying is a messy business,” she wrote early Thursday in a Facebook post. “I can’t predict when cancer will move into my brain matter or when something else big happens to make me more unwell … I wanted to make it to Christmas and New Year’s Eve, my favourite time of the year, but I lost that opportunity because of a poorly thought out federal law.”

She cited the proposed text for a new bill, drafted by Dying with Dignity Canada, which she said is being described as “Audrey’s Law.”

Parker asked people to send emails or texts to their member of Parliament to encourage them to amend the law to help people in her category, which she described as “assessed and approved.”

“For those already assessed and approved for (medical assistance in dying), they should receive the opportunity to figure out when the right time to die is upon them,” Parker wrote. “They will figure it out as they live out as many days as possible.”

She said the decision by Canada’s lawmakers to add late stage consent to the legislation was a ”cowardly act that completely ruined the process for people like me who are dying.”

Parker said the law should be changed to allow for so-called advance requests, which would allow her caregiver to administer lethal drugs even if she was unable to give her consent.

In Ottawa on Wednesday, federal Health Minister Ginette Petitpas Taylor told reporters the federal legislation can’t be altered without completing consultations and study on potential reforms.

“As health minister, I can tell you if I could change that law for her specifically I would. But as the minister, as a parliamentarian, we have to have a law in place for all Canadians,” she said.

She said the issues Parker is raising will be considered in a report being drafted by a panel of experts, which is due by the end of the year.

In her Facebook message, Parker said she loved her life and had no regrets.

“I feel like I’m leaving as my best self and I’m ready to see what happens when I die today,” she wrote.

“The one thing I’m happiest about, is that I finally found ‘my people’ during my lifetime. I’ve even met new people that I already adore near the end of my journey so it’s never too late for anything in life.”

Michael MacDonald, The Canadian Press

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