I was on a bed in the ER department with medical staff hovered around mitigating the effects of a Tylenol overdose. I had swallowed a whole bottle of Tylenol along with chocolate pudding while sitting in the food court of a mall. A few hours later when the effects started coming I panicked and called 911.
I can still picture the narrow ER stretcher and the bright light above me. I was in excruciating pain and they kept saying “your liver is in distress”. I remember telling the doctors “Please kill me. I want to die”. One doctor said, “No, we don’t kill people”.
Those words are ringing in my head after watching the documentary Fatal Flaws about MAID (medically assisted dying) as it is called in Canada. Other terms are physician assisted suicide, euthanasia, death with dignity. The least politically correct term I have heard is “murder on demand”. This latest development in our health care system, legal system and society strikes my heart so deeply because I have both been the vulnerable psychiatric patient with a death wish as well as a care giver for seniors and people with disabilities. And this one story from the Maritimes really broke my heart but fortunately it has a happy ending. And I am grateful to say that my ER story does too. After being treated for the overdose I remember vividly encountering God’s love. A feeling of warmth flooded my whole body and I had a picture of Jesus crying for me. No condemnation, no guilt or shame, just love. That love spoke value and identity and hope. I heard him to my heart say “your story will help people”. When I met with the on-call psychiatrist there was a bounce in my step and I was grinning from ear-to-ear. He looked pretty confused and diagnosed with a personality disorder which was later diagnosed as OCD.
It was a long road to recovery. My community had to work really hard to love and care for me. My doctors had to fight against my death wish and give me treatment. I moved home with my parents and still at times had a death wish and at one point ran away to try to fulfill it. But I never did overdose again and the hope that bubbled up in the hospital eventually won over.
It was when I first heard that MAID was legalized in Canada that I decided to start this blog. I am not a lawyer or a doctor or a politician and I don’t think I am a very good debater. I am a person who wants to help people through suffering and give hope. I have a friend who is a hospital chaplain who told me stories of people changing their mind about MAID after receiving one encouraging visit.
That is not the case for everybody and I don’t want to oversimplify the issue. I just go back to myself on that hospital bed and wonder what would have happened if the doctor hadn’t said “we don’t kill people”. What if he had said something different? Or been pressured to? In Canada if a doctor does not feel comfortable performing MAID he or she must refer their patient to someone who does. Delta Hospice, a privately funded facility is going to be shut down next year by the government because they don’t agree that killing should be offered as a part of palliative care.
I think about the vulnerable people that I cared for and how many of them felt like a burden, what if someone agreed with them?
These are the debates being held and the questions being asked as our government considers expanding the eligibility for MAID.
I don’t have all the answers and I don’t know the nuances of everyone’s story. I can only share my own story and say that I am glad to be here alive, knowing that I am loved and precious and that my life matters. Your life matters to more people than you know. It matters to God.
I will close with the words of Jesus that brought me new life and hope in the midst of mental illness and give me hope in every challenge that I face today.
“Jesus said to her, “Everyone who drinks of this water will be thirsty again, but whoever drinks of the water that I will give him will never be thirsty again. The water that I will give him will become in him a spring of water welling up to eternal life.””
John 4:13-14 ESV