'Who makes the decision?': Patient considers doctor-assisted death
Published Friday, February 26, 2016 6:41PM EST
Death consumes the thoughts of a 63-year-old Toronto-area man who is losing his memory and cognitive skills.
Paul Lea lives on his own, and keeps busy with exercise, household projects and spending time with his daughter. But when he isn't busy, Lea is thinking about his death.
He told CTV Toronto's Pauline Chan that he may desire a physician-assisted death in the future.
Lea spoke to CTV the day after a special parliamentary committee released 21 recommendations meant to guide the government as it drafts legislation.
The recommendations were released a year after the Supreme Court of Canada ruled that the Charter of Rights and Freedoms allows Canadians the right to physician-assisted dying.
In an interview Friday, Lea said he knows there are no easy answers, but he hopes that discussions from those considering assisted death will help shape better legislation.
Lea has chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD), diabetes and vascular dementia.
Vascular dementia is not like Alzheimer's, but instead is caused by a blocked blood vessel. The blockage kills off the brain tissue, and gets worse with mini-strokes.
Lea has had several mini-strokes since his diagnosis. Though he is able to live on his own for now, he is aware that he is slowly losing his ability to think and remember.
As his condition worsens, Lea said he may want a physician-assisted death. He's given his daughter power of attorney, and the pair have talked about the future.
He knows that eventually, as his brain deteriorates, he will not have the cognitive ability to make decisions for himself.
"But this is the thing about assisted suicide. For people with mental illness, who makes the decisions?" Lea said.
Ann Heesters, vice chair of a Toronto research ethics board (http://www.uhn.ca/PatientsFamilies/Patient_Services/Bioethics_Program/Pages/our_team.aspx), said that the best thing Lea can do is talk to his family members now.
"We want you to sit down with your family and say, 'If I can't recognize you anymore, if I'm suffering terribly, here's what I'd like you to do,'" Heesters said.
"As long as someone is capable of understanding the risks and benefits of the drug that's being offered to them, and if they can talk about the alternatives, then we'd say they're capable of making that decision."
With a report from CTV Toronto's Pauline Chan