Margaret Bristow has been trying for years to obtain the necessary authorizations for medical assistance in dying in Ottawa. After having suffered several refusals, she will undergo her intervention on August 10 in a hospital in Brampton, Ontario.
Unable to obtain medical assistance in dying in her region, an Ottawa woman will travel to Brampton to receive treatment.
Margaret (Maggie) Bristow has been trying for several years to obtain the necessary authorizations for medical assistance in dying. The latter maintains that the wait has considerably reduced her quality of life. Next week, she will undergo the procedure in another area, five hours away.
Ms Bristow describes her chronic pain as intolerable and crippling. She suffers from fibromyalgia, arthritis of the spine, degenerative disc disease, lumbar stenosis and several other back problems.
I have it; felt like people were taking ice picks and shoving them into my chest. I feel like my skin is burning on my body 24/7, says Ms. Bristow, sitting motionless on her couch.
For 20 years, Margaret Bristow slept in a sitting position, she says, because of her back pain.
Lately, I feel like my lower spine is going to come out of my skin, Ms. Bristow shares with the pain forming on her face.
Margaret Bristow worked in the aerospace industry decades ago. One of the best moments of my life, she remembers. A dog lover, she also ran a shelter.
But from 1998, she began to feel pain and her health deteriorated rapidly.
She says she consulted a neurologist, neurosurgeons and pain specialists. She also tried various opioid therapies and medications to control her chronic pain.
Nothing really worked for me, Ms. Bristow testifies.
Margaret Bristow says she has applied three times for physician-assisted dying since the procedure was decriminalized in 2016 — twice before and once after recent legislative changes in 2021 that expanded eligibility criteria.
All three times, she says, her Ottawa evaluators denied her application.
When asked why she was denied, Ms. Bristow says she was told that her assessor was not comfortable approving her request.
They abandoned me, left me behind with my pain […] They chose to make my life horrible, she says.
Margaret Bristow, sitting in her living room in Ottawa, learned in July that her request for medical assistance in dying had been approved in the Greater Toronto Area.
According to the federal framework, a patient must have a serious and irremediable medical condition to be eligible for medical assistance in dying (MAID). This means that he must suffer from a serious and incurable disease or handicap and that his capacities must be judged to be in a state of advanced and irreversible decline.
In addition, they have to endure physical or psychological suffering that is intolerable to them and that cannot be relieved to the extent they deem acceptable.
Since 2021, patients like Margaret Bristow are eligible for medical assistance in dying even though natural death is not reasonably foreseeable.
Last spring, her family physician referred to evaluators who process MAID applications in the Toronto area.
Margaret Bristow learned that her request had been approved in July.
After all these years of fighting, I finally get what I need, a-t – she says, looking relieved.
The surgery is scheduled for August 10 in Brampton, Ontario. To get there, she will need to take strong painkillers to control her pain during the journey.
She chose to have the procedure in a hospital because she wants to donate his organs.
I thought Ottawa was the capital of Canada. Why don't they offer me the intervention here? Why are they forcing me to move? Shame on Ottawa, launches Ms. Bristow, who has been confined to the house for years.
Margaret Bristow tried for several years to get medical help in Ottawa, where she lives.
Dr. Chantal Perrot is a Toronto family physician and partner in the Medical Assistance in Dying program. She says she assessed a few patients in the Ottawa area who had difficulty finding an assessor in a timely manner.
That's part of the challenge. There aren't that many of us across the country, she says.
Dr. Perrot explains that the coordination of medical assistance in dying is not standardized across the country. For example, while Ottawa has a regional network, Toronto does not.
It is not uncommon to hear about of patients traveling for MAID in Ontario, she says, as there may not be healthcare professionals nearby willing or able to provide MAID. x27; medical assistance in dying in certain regions.
Some seek services in another province.
Each assessor makes a clinical decision regarding a patient's eligibility on a case-by-case basis, based on their interpretation of the legislation, history, and conditions of the patient, explains Dr. Chantal Perrot.
It is not uncommon for a person not to be declared eligible by one evaluator, but deemed eligible by another, says Dr. Perrot.
The regional medical assistance in dying program in Ottawa, the Champlain Regional Medical Assistance in Dying Network, of which the Ottawa Hospital is a partner, refused to grant an interview. In a written response, sent by email, the program manager points out that all health professionals participate on a voluntary basis.
If a doctor or nurse practitioner is unavailable or uncomfortable during the process, the network said it makes every effort to refer patients to other providers who can support them.
The right to conscientious objection is a value and a fundamental principle of the network. If a provider is unwilling to accept a case, we respect that right, writes the manager of the regional medical assistance in dying program in Ottawa.
The provincial health department also declined an interview. He said in a written response that if a regional network turns down a patient, his care coordination service will help connect them with alternative clinicians.
A regional network may have its own capacity, resource or internal policy issues that may prevent it from providing physician-assisted dying to some patients, the ministry added.
Ann Marie Gaudon met Margaret Bristow through the Canadian Chronic Pain Association. She now considers her a good friend.
I saw an incredibly proud woman. I saw grace, I saw thoughtfulness, generosity, a lot of love and even moments of humor, despite the situation, testifies Ms. Gaudon.
She calls Ms. Bristow a survivor, through and through.
Maggie is a gem and we are all going to miss her. The world will miss her, says Ms Gaudon.
Margaret Bristow said she wanted to share her story in the hope that others in her situation do not encounter as many obstacles.
A souvenir photo of Margaret Bristow with her late fiancé and Brian.
While holding a photo of herself and her late fiancé Brian, Margaret Bristow said she was looking forward to reuniting with her soul mate.
He is the love of my life, she said. Few people meet their true love. I met him and had him with me for four and a half years…hope to see him soon.
With information from Priscilla Ki Sun Hwang, CBC