‘I want to die a good death'

One family’s journey with Medical Assistance in Dying (MAID)

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Life is full of choices.  Some bad and some good, but in Canada we are lucky enough to get to choose most of what we do throughout our lives. From what school to attend to when we have kids, many of life’s choices are up to us.

“So why not also have the choice of when to die,” says Jessie, who recently said goodbye to her husband of sixteen and a half years in their home in Kitchener. Coming to the end of his journey with cancer, Ron Cutting decided to die peacefully with medical assistance in his home surrounded by loved ones.

Jessie and Ron met eight years after the death of her first husband. She was working at the Galt View restaurant. Ron brought his father there from the retirement home on a regular basis. At first, Jessie had no interest in dating Ron. In fact she was still wearing her wedding rings from her previous marriage when they met. Ron convinced Jessie to help with his Dad’s birthday and that’s when the friendship between the two of them became something more. “I liked how he took care of his Dad,” says Jessie. “I was close to my Dad. He raised me, so that is one way I feel I connected with Ron.”

Ron served in the military as a pilot for many years before becoming a police officer and then a respiratory therapist. He had a love of planes, car rides and picnics. Mostly, he loved his family. He was particularly close to his step-daughter, Sia and his grandchildren Jakob and Caroline. “He and Sia got along very well and were quite similar. Ron was a private man but for some reason, Sia was able to pull him out of that. He was the Dad she knew for most of her adult life,” says Jessie. Ron and Jessie’s friend Michelle was also “part of the family” as Ron put it.

Ron is described by most of the people he knew as a “funny guy,” who had a sense of humour even until the very end. “When he was really sick, he would lay on the couch with a Martha Stewart blanket, an ugly brown thing, and he’d say ‘okay, you go out and I’m going to lay here with Martha,’” says Jessie.  Ron also had a memorable relationship with every nurse and doctor he came across during his care. “I remember one day, when the nurse went to write Ron’s name on the board for the doctor, she wrote ‘Ron Cutting – The Bad One,’” says Jessie laughing. “He always made an impression.”

As Ron’s illness progressed, he needed more and more care from those around him and Jessie said he hated having to rely on her. Always a very independent and even a proud man, Ron felt as though he was losing his dignity near the end of his life. The choice for Ron to die peacefully in his home was an easy one for both Ron and for Jessie. “Why would you want your loved one to suffer?” says Jessie. “Ron was very much at peace with his decision and he got to say everything he wanted to say to everyone he cared about before he said goodbye.”

Friends and loved ones were surprised when Ron moved up the date for his passing from April 9 to March 26. “He was nervous that he might have a stroke and that he would not have the capacity to consent to the procedure,” says Jessie. Currently, the law in Canada requires that a patient be able to provide consent up until moments before the procedure that will end their life; criteria that Ron wanted changed and Jessie agrees.

“I can’t say enough positive things about the care that Ron got before he passed. All of the doctors and nurses were absolutely fantastic. They got to know him and us and spent a lot of time with our family,” says Jessie.

On the morning of March 25, 2018, Ron decided to go outside for a walk on the train bridge near their home to show Jessie where he wanted his ashes to be laid. Jessie describes that it seemed as though all of his pain was gone on that walk. On March 26 he woke up feeling well and he was at peace with his decision.”

That day at 1:30pm Ron said goodbye. Right before the doctor administered the substance to end Ron’s life, a plane flew overhead. Knowing his love of flying, Ron’s friend Michelle said “Okay Ron, you’re in the cockpit about to take off.” Ron fell asleep and gently passed away.

“How could you ask for anything more than that?” says Jessie. “He was brave and at peace. Ron used to witness people dying in his work. He described deaths as either good or bad. When it was bad, it was bad for everyone. He said ‘I want a good death.’”

It was Ron’s wish for Jessie to share their experience so that others can benefit from Medical Assistance in Dying (MAID).

 

For more information on MAID please click here or visit: http://health.gov.on.ca/en/pro/programs/maid/