On March 3 a group of some 16 strangers met at Community Centre 55 on Main Street. We had been invited by the Toronto Chapter of Dying With Dignity Canada to explore the idea of – and practical ways of – preparing a ‘living will.’
This is, in DWDC’s definition, an Advanced Care Directive, a document in which you can make known your wishes for medical treatment or non-treatment. The workshop was free. The Advanced Care Directive – the living will – is a two-page document, a copy of which was received as part of a larger planning kit.
Using these materials, the group facilitator, Maureen Aslin, invited discussion, which quickly became vigorous and touched on even the most delicate of concerns. It felt good to speak so openly about life and death issues. It is essential for people to get a good idea of what is involved legally, for themselves and for others.
On the whole I sensed there wasn’t a lot of fear about dying, but great concern about the possibility of a long drawn-out wasting away, and the loss of control and the power to reason. Most of the group had stories to tell about people they had loved, who they were unable to help.
They had obviously thought through a lot of these issues and so we did not take the time to fill out the Advance Directive at the meeting. This will be done at home. We did stress the need to make one’s wishes known to someone close.
I was grateful to be in a room with people who took what I feel to be a sane approach to end-of-life, and who felt free to make this decision for themselves. Hopefully there will be other such workshops in the area in the near future. In a time when some authoritarian influences are speaking so strongly against people making this personal decision it was inspiring indeed.