“Medical assistance in dying (MAiD) is a human right,” Robin Flockton declares.

“People have the right to control their own lives.” Flockton, who lives in Alexandria, is a volunteer for Dying With Dignity Canada (DWDC), a national human rights charity committed to improving the quality of dying, protecting end-of-life rights and helping Canadians avoid unwanted suffering.

Flockton, now retired, is a former British Army officer and former owner of a food analysis equipment business. He became involved in DWDC three years ago.

“The Carter decision, whereby the Supreme Court of Canada struck down the prohibition of assisted suicide, was a lightbulb moment for me,” Flockton says. He had cared about this issue since Sue Rodriguez who was suffering from ALS, was refused the right to assisted suicide 22 years earlier.

Since Joining DWDC, he has volunteered in the area, acting as an independent witness for those requesting MAiD, recruiting other witnesses, helping to organize a senior’s forum in Alexandria and speaking with area hospitals, social workers and medical professionals to ensure that they know independent witnesses are available.

Witnesses critical to the legislation

Witnesses are a very important part of MAiD, as the legislation requires not only verification by two doctors that the person is competent to make the decision but also that two other people to attest to it. People who are related to the person or who can benefit from their will are ineligible, as are employees of the hospital or seniors’ residence where the person lives.

“This means that someone in long term care might find it difficult to find someone who is willing to witness their application,” Flockton notes. “That’s where we step in.”

Flockton has served as witness four times and describes it as a moving experience. “It often means a lot to the family,” he says.

“One woman said, ‘It’s nice having nice people to help.’” To qualify as a DWDC witness, one must pass a police check and complete a computer-based basic training course.

The legislation that made MAiD possible requires that Parliament conduct a review of the legislation beginning in the fifth year after the act was passed. This means that the review should begin next spring or summer. DWDC is active during this election, raising issues that should be considered in the review.

The organization feels that the current interpretation discriminates against those with dementia, who are not allowed to give prior consent when they are still capable.

“We are asking that the legislation respect the Constitution and the Charter of Rights,” says DWDC spokesperson Cory Ruf. Also, once approval for MAiD is given, DWDC would like to see the requirement for confirmation for MAiD right before the action waived so that people like Audrey Parker of Halifax wouldn’t have to choose between dying too early or waiting until it is too late.

To learn more about Dying With Dignity Canada, or to access their services, go to www.dyingwithdignity.ca