A Sydney man’s dying wish is being denied.
Weldon Bona, 62, who has terminal cancer, was approved under the province’s medical assistance in dying (MAID) program last fall.
Last week, he gave word that he was ready for help to die. But Bona found out there isn’t anyone available to provide the service.
“When we think everything is set up, we find out, ‘Oh, by the way, we can’t do it when you’ve set your date, you’ve gotta wait,'” said Bona. “You gotta wait? You’re telling me that I have to wait to die!”
‘Complete lack of respect’
Bona learned his doctor was going to be out of town, so he asked that another doctor or nurse practitioner be found to assist in his death.
His friends and family are frustrated and have made many calls to the program.
“When Weldon first told me he wanted to end his life this way, it was a shock,” said longtime friend Holley Grant.
“But as he pointed out to me, he was really happy with the decision, partly because he was in control. And now the control has been taken away from him,” said Grant. “And it seems to show a complete lack of respect for his wishes.”
Feast with friends planned
Bona has made plans for his final night — complete with a feast of eels, lobster and champagne.
He’s gathered his friends and family and is at peace with his decision.
“I know my body and myself enough to know what its limits are and I’m ready to go,” said Bona. “My friends are ready, I’m ready.”
Another longtime friend, Dave Douglas, said after all the preparation they did in the fall, they were surprised when no one was available to help Bona.
“I guess that’s a sign of it being a new program,” said Douglas. “But we certainly didn’t think at the 11th hour we’d be thrown these curveballs.
“There’s a lot of frustration and anguish, which is kind of the antithesis of what this whole MAID program is supposed to be.”
Not enough health-care practitioners
Medical assistance in dying became legal in Canada in June 2016.
Douglas said supporters have made contact with the national advocacy program Dying With Dignity, although he said they were of the understanding the MAID program was already in place for their friend.
The Nova Scotia Health Authority said there are fewer than 20 physicians and nurse practitioners who offer this service, and none of the participating clinicians are located in Cape Breton.
The NSHA said as a result, they’re not always able to accommodate specific requests.
Patients don’t have time to wait
Robyn MacQuarrie is one of the doctors who works in the MAID program. She is also an obstetrician and regularly works out of a Bridgewater office.
“Nobody does MAID exclusively. We’re doing it on top of the other roles that we have, which does sometimes get us into time crunches with patients and their needs,” she said.
MacQuarrie said more physicians and nurse practitioners are needed to provide MAID.
“For me, it was a little bit of a moral imperative to say, ‘I can help people in this role and there’s a need,'” she said. “And I don’t know that people understand how much there is a need.”
Dying patient stressed
MacQuarrie said one of the biggest challenges is getting the available MAID providers to all areas across the province.
“It’s really hard and we encourage our patients to be flexible with us,” she said. “But I think the bigger message is the more MAID providers we have, the less likely we’d run into a situation where we can’t meet somebody’s emotional needs by giving them that date that they asked for.”
Weldon Bona said it shouldn’t be this difficult to die.
He said he wanted to speak up for others who may choose to die this way in the future.
“This should never happen to anyone else,” said Bona. “No one else should ever, ever, ever go through this.”