OK, I’ve ranted on about death and dying before. But a story in a recent issue of the Toronto Star has got my hackles up again. (Whatever they are! Oh yeah… “hackle | ˈhakəl | noun 1 hackles: erectile hairs along the back of a dog or other animal that rise when it is angry or alarmed”).
Anyway, the newspaper story is a big one and it’s all about Michael Fraser and “The Story of his Life, and his Decision to End It.”
Now, I’m not going to take you through the misery of this man’s life, but I can tell you that after a lifetime of trauma (intractable disease, poverty, childhood sexual trauma, mental health challenges and the option of an assisted death), Michael was housebound by incurable illness and poverty. He was unable to pay his rent and get outside. He’d reached the end point. He’d had enough. He wanted out. The future was bleak. The present was awful. The past was best consigned to oblivion.
As Michael himself said, “My body is falling apart. I don’t want to spend the net five or six years living like this… I’d rather die in my own bed than just die neglected….”
So he made a choice. And because Canada loosened the rules to qualify for medical assistance in dying (MAID) last year, removing the requirement that applicants have a fatal or terminal condition that would make their natural death “reasonably foreseeable”, he was able to do so.
When Fraser’s story was revealed by the Star, we learned he chose to end his life at the age of 55, and as described in the story, his decision was prompted by “a constellation of factors. He was one of thousands of Canadians who avail themselves every year of MAID. He requested – and was approved for – MAID, and on the afternoon of July 2 his doctor came to his Toronto apartment and injected a cocktail of lethal drugs. His wife and friends were at his side to see him out of this life.
Fraser’s situation was sad: he was sick, poor and lonely. And yes, he hadn’t been outside for five weeks because he couldn’t navigate stairs and there was no elevator in his building. He had decided that life was no longer worth living.
But Andrew Phillips, a Toronto Star columnist, just has to weigh in and ask, “How is it remotely acceptable for us to stand by while people choose death because they can’t pay rent or get outside?”
Excuse me? That’s annoying: you’re suggesting by that question that this was his only reason!? That’s just plain silly. But sadly, so typical of the bleeding hearts that want us all to live life their way.
Phillips continues: “This doesn’t invalidate the original purpose of assisted death – to relieve the suffering of people near the end of life. But it does stand as a rebuke to a society that’s willing to support death as a solution to despair, rather than do everything it can to make sure no one feels pushed into that fatal decision. (We could start by simply raising disability payments rather than knocking a few cents off the price of gas.)” Oh puleeeeeesze!
You know, Andy, maybe we could provide support to adults suffering from a life they no longer want to live and who wish to die on their own terms. Because, my friend, it’s their life, not yours.
BTW, nearly 15 years ago I was introduced to Dying With Dignity (dyinhwithdignity.ca) by my late friend Nagui Morcos. He was dying from a terrible condition called Huntington’s Disease, and wanted to exit this earth before he devolved into such a mess as his father had done previously with this inherited illness. I hadn’t thought about Dying With Dignity for a while, but Michael Fraser’s story brought this worthwhile organization to mind, and I’ve just made a donation. I hope you will too. https://www.dyingwithdignity.ca/donate/