GATINEAU, QUEBEC — Katherine Dadej, 45, a biologist and mother of three young children, is afraid she might be dead now if euthanasia and assisted suicide had been legal three years ago.
She told the Quebec's Select Committee on Dying with Dignity Jan. 31 that she became seriously ill and was told she had only a two per cent chance of surviving. She underwent risky surgery.
"After the surgery, my difficulties didn't change, they were even worse," she said in an interview.
She faced a long convalescence and months of physical and emotional suffering.
"If you are very much in pain and your family is panicking, you can make the wrong choice," Dadej said.
Dadej testified before the select committee because she fears for her children and their future.
When one is ill and suffering, one might be tempted to take one's life, she said. Had she fallen to temptation she would have left her children, who were then one, two and five, motherless.
While her experience of pain and suffering was "horrible" and the "worst situation in my life," she said it was also wonderful because of the unconditional love she experienced.
An elderly man who had quit going to church long ago told her mother, "Madame, for your daughter, I would even go to church." She found out that a group of school children had been praying for her.
"The way it happened, everybody told me that they loved me, this was the main thing," she said. She is thankful for the unconditional love she experienced and still finds in her family.
Though the select committee uses the words "dying with dignity" as euphemisms for euthanasia and assisted suicide, another private citizen used the phrase to describe the experience of a loving extended family, surrounding loved ones in their last days as "dying with dignity."
Brigid Kane began her presentation describing the family as "the template of society." Then she spoke of the deaths of her grandfather, her father and her mother and her beloved husband, who in his last days needed a feeding tube because he could not swallow.
She spoke of how family members pitched in by providing living arrangements or other supports. Her husband Elmar died "in his bed as he wished."
"The children took turns by his side day and night to relieve us as the end drew near," he was at peace, knowing that I would have a cherished place in the home and hearts of our children and grandchildren," Kane said.
Now the extended family is helping with the care of her aged sister-in-law who broke her arm and is suffering from dementia.
Kane called for more home nursing and other services for families, as well as proper training for hospital personnel.
"Amending the Criminal Code to permit euthanasia will inevitably lead to abuse and the further disintegration of ethical standards," she said.
Another private citizen, Joan Lusignan, told the committee the government must put more money into training people in how to look after those who are very ill.
"Families need help in looking after their loved ones who are dying," Lusignan said.
"I know because I have looked after both my own parents as well as my husband."
While the government must provide more palliative care and respite care, it "must not take over what families are meant to do," she said.
Lusignan, who is in her eighties, said that if euthanasia and assisted suicide were acceptable, she would be "very afraid to go to a doctor when I felt I was getting very sick."