Audrey Parker, diagnosed with stage-four breast cancer which had metastasized to her bones and has a tumour on her brain, talks about life and death at her home in Halifax on Tuesday, Oct. 23, 2018. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Andrew Vaughan

Woman plans to die on Thursday, says Ottawa is forcing early death

Audrey Parker of Halifax has approached it as a political act

Audrey Parker has decided to end her life on Thursday.

She has approached it as a political act — an important public statement about Canada’s relatively new assisted dying law.

The 57-year-old Halifax woman says she is thankful the law will allow her to end the excruciating pain caused by cancerous tumours in her bones, but she says the legislation has left her in a terrible bind.

In recent weeks, the platinum-haired former ballroom dance instructor has spoken out — on social media, in newspapers, on TV — about how the two-year-old law is forcing her to choose to die sooner than she wants.

“You don’t want to die earlier than you have to,” she said in a recent interview in her Halifax apartment, where she has waged a very public campaign about a delicate subject that most would shy away from.

“There’s no reason I should have to die on Nov. 1 … I want to live as many days as I can.”

The problem, Parker says, is that people seeking medical assistance in dying must meet a set of criteria that she says appear to make no sense.

READ MORE: Vancouver Island leads nation in medically assisted deaths

Applicants must be in an advanced state of decline and experiencing unbearable physical or mental suffering caused by a grievous, irreversible medical condition, which means their natural death “has become reasonably foreseeable.”

Parker, diagnosed with Stage 4 breast cancer in early 2016, meets all of those conditions.

“All the tumours in my skeleton are killing me,” she says in a blunt, matter-of-fact tone that makes it clear she has accepted her fate. ”My brain is constantly telling me: ‘Cut those legs off. Cut those arms off … Get away from that pain.’ It’s so heinous.”

She has been assessed and approved for a medically assisted death.

But there’s a catch.

Under the law, she must be mentally competent immediately before she gives consent for her assisted death.

RELATED: B.C. woman seeks changes in assisted dying law

If her painkillers or cancer render her unconscious or mentally incompetent before that crucial moment, the procedure must not be carried out. A medically assisted death under those circumstances would be illegal.

“It’s unfortunate that I have to pick a date … but I’m not going to wait around and lose that window,” says Parker, whose varied career has also included working as a fundraiser, buyer in the fashion industry and as a makeup artist and television floor director.

“I don’t want to let my mother see me suffering. I don’t want my friends to see me suffering.”

Despite the heavy subject matter, Parker remains animated and upbeat while discussing her weighty predicament.

However, it’s clear she has been through an agonizing ordeal.

She mentions having to take large doses of the painkiller Dilaudid to manage her pain. Her hair was recently cut short to help her deal with a rising body temperature.

Still, she speaks with passion and clear-eyed authority about her cause, refusing to give in to maudlin sentiments.

“I’m changing this law,” she says with a smile. “I’m so close to changing it.”

The existing law doesn’t permit the use of what are known as advance requests — written instructions for a medically assisted death that must be implemented whether or not the person is able to consent.

The law was written to ensure that vulnerable people who are unable to speak for themselves are not put in a position where someone else decides whether they live or die. When the law was being drafted, some outspoken advocates for people with disabilities made it clear that protections had to be put in place.

Other critics have suggested it could be difficult to determine a person’s level of suffering if they can no longer describe their pain. And there may be cases where a person with dementia or some other type of mental illness becomes mentally incompetent but isn’t suffering.

Parker said the change she is seeking should only apply to her category: mentally sound, adult applicants who have already made their life-ending wishes known at the conclusion of a rigorous assessment process.

“The (federal government) hasn’t set up (the law) to make it useful, and they’re lumping everyone together,” Parker said.

Ottawa should amend the law to give people like her the option of drafting an advance request that would remain in force for 12 months before being renewed, she said.

In June, Health Canada confirmed that a total of 3,714 Canadians had ended their lives with the help of doctor or nurse practitioner since medically assisted dying became legal — in Quebec in December 2015 and nationwide in July 2016.

Parker said she plans to gather with a small group of friends on Wednesday to say goodbye.

“Everyone is starting to have a hard time,” she said. “I’m going to be here one day and not the next.”

As for her final wishes, Parker plans to start Thursday with a hearty breakfast: lobster eggs benedict.

And when it comes time for a medically assisted lethal injection, Parker says she will be surrounded by her three best friends, her mother, a roommate and her niece. Also in the room will be singer-songwriter Laura Smith, who will be singing as Parker gazes upon some of her favourite artworks.

“I’m sure there will be some tears,” she said. “But I’m really at peace with it. I feel good about it … I’m not afraid to die.”

The Canadian Press

Like us on Facebook and follow us on Twitter.

Just Posted

Ferry connecting Port Hardy and Bella Coola expected to set sail this summer

Its first in-service route will sail in central coast waters on May 18, 2019.

BC Parks Student Ranger Program accepting applications for 2019 season

12 crews of four student rangers will work in regions throughout the province including Bella Coola.

Over $650,00 given to rural communities thanks to Rural Dividends

Five communities, including Williams Lake, are receiving $10,000 for project grants

Pregnant Cariboo firefighter tries to save own house from blaze

Julia Flinton and Anthony Sellars both worked on the 2017 wildfires

Road report for Highway 20

Fog patches and slippery sections; Drive BC

New Canada Food Guide nixes portion sizes, promotes plant-based proteins

Guide no longer lists milk and dairy products as a distinct food group

Suspended B.C. legislature officers accused of ‘flagrant overspending’

Personal trips, purchases, alcohol and more laid out in 76-page report by Plecas

Alberta youth charged over theft of $17,000 in snow equipment at B.C. ski resort

Alberta RCMP recovered $17,000 in skis/snowboards believed stolen from Fernie Alpine Resort Saturday

China demands U.S. drop Huawei extradition request with Canada

Hua said China demands that the U.S. withdraw the arrest warrant against Meng Wanzhou

Giant ice disk equipped with webcam after surviving storm

Westbrook official Tina Radel says the livestream was requested by Brown University

Ousted B.C. legislature officials say report released to further blacken their reputations

James and Lenz say release was ‘Contrary to all principles of fairness and decent treatment’

B.C. animators land Oscar nominations

‘Animal Behaviour’ by Vancouver’s David Fine and Alison Snowden among several Canadians on the short list

B.C. legislature managers accused of excessive travel, personal expense claims

Clerk Craig James, security chief Gary Lenz call allegations ‘completely false’

Auto shop apologizes after B.C. employees disrespect memorial convoy

Mr. Lube staff members suspended after incident Sunday in Nanaimo

Most Read