Jan Lackie says her 84-year-old father suffered excruciating pain on his last day of life despite his pleas for a medically assisted death and new legislation giving him the right to die.
“I can still clearly hear his screams,” the Calgary resident says of her father, Ian Shearer, who was writhing in agony in the back of an ambulance as it carried him away from a hospital that refused to help end his life.
Shearer had been suffering from spinal stenosis, heart disease, kidney failure and sepsis. He was dying a painful death in a palliative ward at Vancouver’s St. Paul’s Hospital.
Canada legalized medical assistance in dying on June 17, 2016 — coincidentally, Shearer’s 84th birthday.
But two months later, when he would need to use the law to end his own suffering, the Catholic hospital he was in refused his request. Lackie says the hospital told her family they wouldn’t provide the medical assistance for religious reasons.
Instead, Shearer was forced to make the painful choice to be transferred to a facility that would provide the service, but not without suffering hours of intense pain while in transit.
“The ride over in the ambulance was incredibly traumatic for him,” Lackie explained.
“The movement — bumps, stops, starts — were so cruel for him to have to endure in his throbbing body.”
Some faith-based hospitals still deny service
A year after Canada passed a Medical Assistance in Dying law, the issue remains controversial.
The legislation doesn’t require medical practitioners to perform the service. Healthcare providers can choose not to provide the assistance if it goes against their beliefs or values.
Members of the national non-profit Dying with Dignity Canada hope to see that change.