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MAiD: Part 2 – The decision


Norm takes the wheel for one last drive around Port aux Basques, accompanied by John Spencer. – courtesy of John Spencer

Editor’s note: MAiD, the acronym for Medical Assistance in Dying, became legal in Canada in 2016. A person with a grievous and irremediably medical condition where death is reasonably foreseeable can choose to seek medical assistance in dying.

The story that follows details the journey of Norman Osmond, who chose MAiD as his last wish – a wish to be at the helm in deciding how his life, spanning nearly eight decades should end.

Part 1 of Norm’s story can be found HERE.

By JOHN SPENCER

Special to the Wreckhouse Weekly

Despite the dark road ahead, Norm’s time in hospital was limited to just two occasions. The first was a three-day stay at the regional facility in Corner Brook. The second was a week at the local hospital in Port aux Basques.

Norm had been diagnosed with two primary cancers. There was evidence that one of the cancers had now spread into his bones. Both stays in hospital had given a Norm a ray of hope. Both raised expectations. However, neither was able to go beyond palliative care.

The battle to stabilize the deadly invasion had been an excruciating experience. Both visits challenged the remarkable professionalism of Norm’s caregivers – the doctors, nurses, and support personnel.

Norm was very appreciative of the level of care. However, the hospital stays took their toll. Energies now focused on another important date. Norm was on the eve of his 79th birthday. Friday, July 24. That day became a goal.

Norm’s family doctor, nurses and medical support teams spent hours getting him home for his birthday. It would be Norm’s last stay in hospital. Norm’s comments as he was about to leave, besides always thankful, were the offer of a ‘bottle’ for the doctor, and to a nurse, the opportunity to dance the next time they met. He was going home.

On the eve of Norm’s second release from hospital his corner grew darker.

The medical decision had been put forth for him to consider discontinuing palliative chemotherapy as a life extending option. This decision was not easy, but was based on Norm’s severe reaction to the first round of chemo.

A second round had been cancelled, and there was little hope of Norm having the strength to endure a third. After rapid weight loss, and with one organ already shut down, Norm was not strong enough to go on. Norm’s care was now geared towards pain therapy on an end of life program.

News of this new path did not sit well with Norm. Norm had spoken of asking for a needle.

The idea of the doctor being able to relieve his anguish through a needle became a common topic of conversation. Norm was adamant. The week in hospital had taken its toll. There were doubts. What was in store? Where was Norm heading?

A path from independence to dependence, then perhaps uncertainty, while looking to others to administer drugs to keep him comfortable was not sitting well. There had be another alternative.

An email reaching out to the medical world was not easy to write. Norm’s request for MAiD, medical assistance in dying, was submitted.

He knew his death was imminent. He did not wish to return to a hospital. He wanted to be at the helm.

There was a sense of urgency, a need to put a new path in motion while still being able to give consent. A window of waiting another ten days was closing. Having drugs administered in the form of pain therapy through a butterfly implant would gradually take away his ability to give consent.

Things moved quickly though.

The application process, medical interviews and approvals were in place within days.

Norm had a resurgence of newfound energy. There was even talk of a drive. On a quiet Sunday morning in August, Norm took the wheel for one last drive around to see his beloved town.

There were a lot of new things to see. The new municipal garage in Grand Bay brought forward the comment, “That must have cost a few thousand”, followed up with an editorial from me, his co-pilot, the mayor, “We wish it was only a few.”

We both had a laugh. It was a good day.

Norm was true to form in the interviews with the medical teams assessing his readiness for MAiD. When asked what it meant, Norm simply replied “Death.”

When asked again in another way, Norm, as a testament of his understanding and courage, responded, “No more ice cream.”

Another interview. Another doctor. Another question.

Norm was asked whether the procedure should continue knowing he was in control and could stop it at any point. What would he say?

Norm responded, “Green light all the way.”

He was ready.

This story concludes next week in Part 3: Norm in Control, available Monday, January 25.

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