By Chris Haring

Dr. Stefanie Green, a pioneering Canadian physician in assisted dying, shares the transformative journey of a patient who chose Death with Dignity.

What if we had the power to choose when, where, and how we approach the end of our lives? 

A Canadian doctor explains medical aid in dying’s evolution in her country

In an enlightening recent TEDxSurrey Talk, Dr. Stefanie Green, a Canadian physician and pioneer in assisted dying, invites us to contemplate this profound question with compassion, perspective, and a healthy degree of humor.

Dr. Green tells how, after 22 years as a maternity doctor, she transitioned to providing medical aid in dying (commonly known as MAID in Canada) when her country’s Supreme Court overturned its prohibition in 2016. 

One man’s choice of assisted death leads to a “remarkable transformation” in perspective

One particularly poignant anecdote the doctor shares is that of a patient she cared for named Harvey, whose narrative embodies the essence of autonomy through physician-assisted dying. At 74 years old and suffering from end-stage liver failure, his story defied conventional narratives of death. 

When Dr. Green met Harvey, she says he remained steadfast and capable of voicing his wishes despite his terminal illness. Within days, she confirmed his eligibility for assisted dying, setting in motion a remarkable transformation in his perspective. 

Freedom and peace of mind allow patients to “choreograph” their final days

Knowing that he now had some degree of control over when and how he would die, Harvey stopped dwelling on the fear and shifted his focus to how he wanted to live his remaining days. 

Emboldened by this newfound clarity, he and his family planned a weekend open house at his home, where friends and neighbors could gather to say goodbye. Instead of spending his remaining time worrying about the unknown, he was, as Dr. Green says, able to “choreograph his own death.”

Ultimately, Harvey’s final day was full of profound intimacy and love. In his last moments, as Dr. Green administered the end-of-life medications, her patient gazed into the eyes of his wife of 52 years. Their foreheads touched, words exchanged in whispers, and a smile graced his face. 

Death with Dignity allows patients to remain “self-made and in control,” as Dr. Green said, not just in dying but in how individuals choose to live their final days. Harvey’s story, as with so many others, is a testament to the power of choice and the profound impact of human connection in the face of mortality.

(NOTE: While Canada and some regions in the United States offer medical aid-in-dying options, it’s important to note that the specific requirements can differ. In the U.S., where Death with Dignity is legal in ten states and Washington D.C., there are common qualifications that must be met. While each state’s criteria may vary to a degree, patients must generally meet the following qualifications: diagnosed with a terminal illness that will lead to death within six months as confirmed by two qualified healthcare providers; an adult in a state where such a law is in effect; capable of making and communicating healthcare decisions; capable of self-administering and ingesting medications without assistance; and acting voluntarily without coercion.

For more detailed information about these requirements and how they may vary from state to state, we encourage you to visit our FAQ page and/or reach out to us at [email protected].)

Watch the video below:

The truth about assisted dying

Dr. Stefanie Green
Published:  September 12, 2023