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LETTER: How we die should be left for ourselves to decide

If a person is suffering continual mental anguish and is unlikely to be cured, why should someone else have the power to decide whether their life has value, says letter writer regarding MAID for mental distress
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RE: 'Wasting away': Woman advocates for advance request on MAID as husband suffers, Jan. 25; Letter to the editor, MAID becoming sanctioned eugenics, Jan. 26

It is with sadness that I read the news that the federal government is pausing its decision to open MAID to include mental distress.

I have read numerous articles suggesting that people choose MAID because our health support is inadequate. This is the exact opposite of my experience with a number of friends and family who all depended on our publicly funded health-care system.

At 79, I have lost a number of close friends and family to prolonged illness. All have received incredible OHIP-provided support during their illness: in-home hospice health care, supplies and support (often daily); in-hospital hospice care, necessitates intensive support from medical staff to relieve the  terrible discomfort associated with physical illness, and a whole array of medical interventions that may only prolong the terrible final stage of physical suffering and mental anguish.

When professionals of one kind or another, medical, religious, etc., offer opinions suggesting that "if we provided more support, people would not want MAID", it denies the reality of illness and death.

We will all die, because we are mortal. How we die should be left for ourselves to decide. 

Mental suffering is just as real as physical suffering. It is not proposed that someone who is going through a transient period of depression should be offered MAID, but if the suffering is continual and the person suffering is very unlikely to experience a "cure" or relief from ongoing anguish, why should someone else have the power to decide whether their life has value to them?

A friend of mine recently chose MAID after years of undergoing every possible treatment for her metastatic cancer. She loved life and wanted desperately to live. But when she reached the stage when the cancer was causing so much distress and she feared losing her ability to be in charge of how she would end her life, she chose MAID and died peacefully, even cracking a joke at the last moment.

That is exactly the opposite of other end-of-life scenarios I've witnessed, where the dying process was excruciatingly long, uncomfortable and, for the person suffering, degrading. The end was the same, death, but the process was very different: either a compassionate end where you are able to say goodbye to loved ones and leave this life gently; or a prolonged struggle for breath and comfort that is agonizing to watch and I'm sure, to experience.

I know that if I am offered the gift to choose how I will end my life, it will be with the compassionate assistance of MAID. Anyone else has the right to choose whatever they want. But I really have difficulty understanding how someone thinks they have the right to decide for another, what is an acceptable life for them.

Fran Bazos