MEDICINE HAT, AB — In June 2016, the federal government passed a law allowing Canadians to choose medical assistance in dying.
Of the 97 Albertans who have chosen the procedure so far, 11 of them were in the South Health Zone.
One of the people who chose an assisted death was 59-year-old Colette Brunton from Medicine Hat.
Her daughter Jessica Hamel said Colette made the decision with the support of her family and friends after suffering for two years from a rare and terminal form of appendix cancer.
“She was in bed 23.5 hours a day, she couldn't walk anymore because she was too weak and these are the things we had talked about before,” said Hamel.
Colette was diagnosed with the cancer in 2014.
Hamel said her mom was often in unbearable pain and had to take powerful opioids to try and regulate it. The cancer also made it nearly impossible for her to eat and she began to starve.
“When she was first diagnosed she weighed 230 pounds,” said Hamel. “When she died, I would guess she was probably about 100 pounds.”
When medical assistance in dying became legal last June, Colette began looking into it.
It was not an easy decision.
Hamel said her mom struggled with not wanting to leave her family and not wanting to suffer.
“It's kind of like my mom was in a burning building and she was up high and she had a choice,” said Hamel. “She was either going to die in that burning building or she was going to die jumping. My mom decided to die jumping and I was able to hold her hand.”
In the end, Colette chose to get the procedure done and on December 2, 2016, surrounded by her family, she said her final good-byes.
“I gave her a kiss on the forehead,” Hamel said. “I said she was my hero.”
Ultimately Hamel said the cancer was going to take her mom’s life whether she received an assisted death or not, but said Colette wasn't going to let the disease decide when.
The family realizes medically assisted death is not for everyone and that many people don’t agree with it, but for Colette it was the right decision and the family is grateful she had the choice.
“My mom died on her own terms and she was given that gift through medical assistance in death.”
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