As an obituary writer on the dead beat, I always thought I was writing about life not death. Death was only the precipitating incident to explore human character in all its variety—the noble as well as the sinister, the achievements as well as the foibles. But as the movement to legalize physician assisted death gained traction in Quebec and then slowly in the rest of the country, I became fascinated by the bravery of people who were determined to have autonomy and choices over the end of their lives. I began writing about people for whom life had become tyrannical and who wanted the law changed so others wouldn’t have to suffer the way they had.
Here’s a link to a long feature I wrote about an Ontario woman named Kim Teske. Afflicted with Huntington’s Disease, she wanted to die before the disease consumed her. Kim’s Choice was a finalist for a national newspaper award in 2014 and won several online citations and prizes.
After leaving The Globe in 2014, I continued to write freelance for the newspaper. Here’s a link to a story about Grant Crosbie, an advertising executive suffering from Alzheimer’s Disease and his wife’s loving but desperate attempt to find appropriate care for him.
I also began writing a monthly column called The Long Goodbye for The Globe, beginning with the importance of having a will. My first column used the sudden death of Philip Seymour Hoffman as a lead in to the mistakes people often make about estate planning.
Another column dealt playfully with leaving masses of dubious treasures for your next of kin.
And of course I followed the legal arguments leading to the unanimous Supreme Court decision in February 2015 that declared the Criminal Code prohibitions against assisted suicide were unconstitutional.
More articles on end of life planning and choices:
Jan 7: Alberta judge gives U.S. woman time served for aiding in her mother’s suicide
Jan 15: How the ice storm raised the stakes for patient triage at Sunnybrook
Jan 24: How one hospital is dealing with Canada’s aging population
Feb 14: Life’s last milestone: Why a ‘good death’ matters
Feb 17: Day of decision nears for Quebec’s end-of-life legislation
March 6: You can’t take it with you: Five common mistakes people make about wills
March 13: Discussions that people don’t want to have
March 27: Why it’s never too early for an advance-care plan
April 25: Leaving a trail for the living to follow
Sept 4: Living with the aftershocks of assisted suicide
Sept 12: How Ian McEwan has evolved from literary shocker to compassionate novelist
Oct 3: Supreme Court to rule soon if assisted suicide is a human right
Oct 9: Can we prepare ourselves for a gentler end of life? Author Atul Gawande thinks so
Nov 6: The story behind the CMA’s overwhelming change on assisted death
Dec 4: What happens next in the case of J.J., the Six Nations child with leukemia?
Jan 1: We are camouflaging morbidity in clichés: It’s time to talk about death
Feb 5: Despite impending ruling on assisted death, we need better palliative care
Feb 6: Families pushing for doctor-assisted suicide reflect on a bittersweet victory
Feb 9: Physician-assisted suicide: How will Friday’s ruling play out in the political arena?
March 5: As a family of hoarders, we’ll give our kids everything. But will they want it?
April 9: Sandra Martin: What the lives and legacies of Terry Fox and Glen Campbell have in common
May 7: Brian’s choice: What happens when a man with Huntington’s disease decides he wants to roll the dice on life?
June 4: When is aggressive cancer treatment too aggressive?
July 9: End-of-life care conversations benefit everyone, including doctors
Aug 13: Palliative care is improving, but PEI must embrace wishes of the dying
Sept 3: Where federal parties stand on physician-assisted death
Oct 8: When it comes to assisted dying, whose choice is it?
Nov 12: Patients should talk frankly with their doctors about assisted dying
Dec 13: The health industry’s most electrifying moments of 2015
Dec 22: The challenge of recognizing one’s days of living independently are over
Jan 15: Review: Paul Kalanithi’s When Breath Becomes Air is an exquisitely moving exploration of mortality
Jan 21: Life-and-death drama plays out in the Supreme Court
Feb 26: A right-to-die plan that offers autonomy to patients
2018: Three years after The Supreme Court Decision that legalized Medically Assisted Death, a retrospective look at what we have accomplished and how much we still have to do.