A Saskatchewan woman who chose a medically-assisted death wants people to understand her choice.
Deb Johnson, 58, died on June 11. She was diagnosed at the age of nine with a rare inflammatory disease called dermatomyositis, which causes skin rashes and progressive muscle weakness.
“If anyone were to ask, ‘What was the cause of death?’ The answer would be exhaustion. This body of mine, which is only a vessel for my spirit and soul, has done me well, but it is time to move on,” Johnson wrote in her obituary.
Before her death, Johnson asked her brother, Tom McKnight, to share her story. He spoke with radio host John Gormley Tuesday, recounting what one of his sister’s doctors told him.
“He said, ‘You know when I was talking to Deb and asking her why, she looks at me and says, ‘Don’t I have the right to quit?’ And he said, ‘What do you say to somebody who asks you that?” McKnight recalled.
It’s been just over a year that people in Saskatchewan have had access to medical assistance in death (MAID).
There is a long list of criteria that must be met by the patient in order for the province to approve their application for MAID, including conditions the applicant must be 18 or older and have a grievous, irremediable medical condition.
McKnight explained that once approved, there’s a waiting period as the patient needs to pick a date.
“You’ve got to re-confirm that ten days before the day. You have to be of sound mind when they come,” McKnight said.
McKnight said his only role was to support his sister’s decision, adding he was happy to be joined by other family members at the time of her death.
“After seeing Deb go through what she did, and being with her the last month … I appreciate the fact that she had the ability to do that and I’m glad that other people will have the ability to do that,” McKnight said.
According to the province, there have been at least 21 people so far to use medical assistance in dying.