Maclean’s Interview: Bernice Packford

The 95-year-old on why she wants to kill herself, despite being healthy, and why she thinks a doctor should be allowed to help

by Ken MacQueen

Photographs by Brian Howell

Photographs by Brian Howell

Last month, as her 95th birthday approached, Bernice Levitz Packford, a one-time Victoria citizen of the year, wrote to her local newspaper, the Times Colonist. “I am tired and I am ready to die now,” began her letter, a carefully considered argument in favour of changing the Criminal Code to allow for doctor-assisted suicide. “I have decided, after much reflection, that I wish to end my life now before my mind and body deteriorate further so I am incapable of making that decision,” wrote Packford, who lives in her home with the help of caregivers. She concluded: “Can Parliament find the gumption to give me the right to assisted suicide? I could then have my family and friends around me to say goodbye as I die with dignity.” Packford’s letter has triggered a renewed debate on the issue, in the pages of the newspaper and on websites, both for and against assisted suicide.

Q: You started your letter with the sentence: “I’m tired and I’m ready to die now.” You must have expected you’d stir things up.
A: I never though it would create such a public response. Never.
One thing I do know is that people do not face their mortality. I know that because I wrote a letter to the editor about making a will. People do not generally make a will and they die without a will, leaving so much grief for their children. And that’s because of a refusal to face our mortality.

Q: You can’t be accused of that. Why did you write the letter?
A: I am in good health. I’m not suffering from an illness that will be eventually fatal. So my case is not covered [in the current death with dignity debate]. That’s why I wrote that letter. I’m tired and I do suffer from congestive heart failure [which robs her of energy and requires her to use a walker]. I can have a stroke. I’ve had a stroke, and I recovered from that. I’m facing imminent sickness or a stroke, which will leave me conscious and helpless. And that thought fills me with horror.

Q: So there wasn’t a particular event that inspired the letter?
A: No, just this thought of what I’m facing. After all, I’m not getting younger.

Q: Can we turn back that clock and put you in context. Where were you born? Tell me about your family.
A: I was born in Toronto, in a first-generation Jewish family. My parents came from Russia. They came over about 1906. My mother had seven sisters. They were very close and they helped each other. My mother was a single parent, [my father] died, and my mother was poor so all the sisters helped. I have one sister. Had one sister. We always had to worry about the rent. We were always two or three months behind. The rent was $33 a month. The war broke out in 1939 and it was our saviour.

Q: You must be the only Jewish family to say that.
A: Yes. We were safe, we weren’t in Europe. Business picked up, so I asked my mother and sister if I could go to university because they were so short of students you could enter into the social work graduate school without a B.A. Everything went by the board because it was the war. I took it in three years and I graduated in 1945. They were so short of social workers on the West Coast. I heard in Vancouver you didn’t have to have a winter coat. That was a big plus for me. I applied and got a job in Vancouver. I worked for three years for the ministry.

Q: You also attended the University of British Columbia, and got married at some point.
A: I decided I’d get a B.A. I got married while I was at university. We weren’t married very long. He was not cut out to be a father. I saw that within about five or six years. You can’t make him over.

Q: So you were a single mother.
A: Yes, with one daughter. I was very fortunate. My mother came out here and she really raised my daughter because I worked full-time, after Leah [Bernice’s daughter] was about three.

Q: Did your early poverty play a part in setting you on the path of social activism?
A: Yes, fashioning out a fairer social order. That’s been my life. I was a member of the CCYM. Does that name mean anything to you?

Q: No.
A: Co-operative Commonwealth Youth Movement of the CCF [the Co-operative Commonwealth Federation, which later became the New Democratic Party]. I was in that in the 1930s.

Q: I’m probably missing some things, but you’ve been an advocate for children’s rights, for foster parents, for the decline in jobs on Victoria’s waterfront, for the state of the environment. You’ve supported safe injection sites, opposed Canada’s involvement in the war in Afghanistan, and written many letters about the need for public engagement in civic politics.
A: Oh, definitely. And legalizing marijuana.

Q: Well, no wonder you’re tired.
A: The number of years is what tires me. People have asked me from time to time why I don’t give up. Just turn away. The thought never occurs to me because that’s not my nature. I don’t have to spur myself on. I don’t think, “why doesn’t someone else do it?” There’s enough there for all of us.

Q: Back to the issue of doctor-assisted suicide. I guess, by definition, it would be your last crusade.
A: It isn’t. If I have enough time I’ll write another of my famous letters. I’m very concerned about Vancouver Island. I read the various schemes of attracting people to Vancouver Island. None of them ask, how many people can this island support? That’s what I’m going to ask. Do you know how slowly [groundwater] aquifers are filled and how they are filled? Very slowly. If you empty it before it fills naturally, it gets filled with sea water. Once it’s filled with sea water, it’s kaput.

Q: When you wrote this letter about doctor-assisted suicide, did you consult with your family, talk to your daughter and grandchildren?
A: Yes, I talked with Leah and the family. They always take the view that if this is what I decide to do, there’s not much they can do about it. They won’t say “no, no, no.” This is my decision.

Q: Were they surprised or shocked?
A: No.

Q: Are you a member of the Right to Die Network?
A: Yes. I have been a member for several years.

Q: Your letter triggered many others, and it’s all over religious and anti-right-to-die websites. Are you happy about the debate you’ve started?
A: Absolutely. It shows people are thinking about it. They don’t want to talk about it but now it’s made for a conversation.

Q: You’re a faithful member of the oldest synagogue in B.C., a conservative one at that. I have to ask, what did your rabbi say about your letter?
A: [Laughs] We haven’t discussed it. If I don’t open it, he won’t open it. He knows that’s how I feel.

Q: In your view, what does the Torah have to say about suicide?
A: They leave it up to God. I’m not of a philosophical turn of mind.

Q: One interpretation is we don’t own our bodies any more than we can own someone else’s, and that we’re a gift from God to be used for His purpose. You don’t feel that doctor-assisted suicide would violate that?
A: In some people’s eyes that would. In others no. We’re very flexible.

Q: Religion aside. Assisted suicide is illegal. Have you followed [Bloc MP] Francine Lalonde’s private member’s bill?
A: Yes, I have.

Q: She has described it as amending the Criminal Code “to allow medical practitioners, subject to certain conditions, to aid a person who is experiencing severe physical or mental pain without any prospect of relief or is suffering from a terminal illness to die with dignity once the person has expressed his or her free and informed consent to die.” Do you feel your circumstance would apply?
A: No. Because I feel fine. But that’s better than nothing. Certainly people want to have [a change]. In some cases, doctors do put them out of misery but why drag it out as much as we do?

Q: What kind of legislation would you advocate for?
A: What [Lalonde] has on the table right now is better than nothing, definitely. People who are enduring pain or mental anguish, they should have that right to go. However, if a person wishes to go—they should have that right as well.

Bernice Packford, 95, on why she wants to kill herself, despite being healthy, and why she thinks a doctor should be allowed to help

Photograph by Brian Howell

Q: Since you wrote that letter, has anyone come forward to offer assistance?
A: No. Moral, yes.

Q: But not immoral?
A: [Laughs] You mean but not illegal.

Q: You don’t like the term euthanasia. What is the difference?
A: In euthanasia, somebody is doing it to you. I’m not good at defining the differences but I’m not happy with that term.

Q: I presume from a Jewish perspective, especially, euthanasia has ugly connotations of Nazi medical experiments and death camps.
A: Yes.

Q: There have been several attempted prosecutions across the country, but juries tend not to convict those accused of assisting in a suicide of the terminally ill. Is that an expression of public will?
A: It’s an expression of opinion. It’s one way of letting the government know what the general thinking is. People are expressing their point of view on this whole matter of end-of-life issues.

Q: I’m sure you’ve heard the counter-arguments. Is there a risk that the elderly, the handicapped or infirm might feel vulnerable? They may consider themselves a burden on their families or society and feel compelled to kill themselves or have somebody help them do that just to be expedient.
A: They already feel that way [a burden] when it happens to them personally. Fortunately, here we have medicare so that medically we are not a burden on our families. That’s a big help. In other countries we would be a terrible burden.

Q: Are you in favour of safeguards to ensure a person isn’t pressured into a decision like that?
A: Yes, of course, I am in favour of safeguards. I wouldn’t want to be put in that position, or have anyone else be in that position, to not be rendered a free agent.

Q: You’ve been working toward a civil society your whole life. Isn’t one measure of a civil society how it takes care of the weakest members? Do you give the weakest members the right to end their lives when they wish? Or do you protect them at all costs? We don’t banish people out onto an ice floe anymore or things like that.
A: There’s a lot to be said for that. [Laughs]. The decision is taken out of your hands when you can no longer contribute to the community.

Q: But doesn’t that run counter to a civil society?
A: Yes, it does. We’re a rich society. We can afford to do this in a civil way.

Q: Do you think there would be a class of doctors that would be willing to make these end-of-life decisions and to actively kill people? Doesn’t it run counter to their Hippocratic oath? Certainly the Canadian Medical Association opposes the idea.
A: If they would not be prosecuted, and the patient wants that, there will be doctors found to work on this, to volunteer for this. It’s not everybody’s doctor. Just like abortion. Not every doctor wanted to do abortions. Well, you didn’t have to, but there were enough.

Q: Now that you’ve generated attention, are you hoping a member of Parliament will carry this message back to Ottawa?
A: It will take much more than just this. But I’m hoping, yes, of course.

Q: Do you think Stephen Harper’s government is disposed to this kind of idea?
A: No, I don’t.

Bernice Packford, 95, on why she wants to kill herself, despite being healthy, and why she thinks a doctor should be allowed to help

Photograph by Brian Howell

Q: You’ve been thinking about this for some time. Have you thought about the afterlife? If there is one and what it would be like?
A: What will I say? I believe a person lives on in the memories of their friends and family.

Q: None of this land of milk and honey stuff?
A: No.

Q: This is a rude question, but have you thought how you would like to end your life?
A: I would prefer it to happen while I am still the way I am now. Of course, I would love to go by a heart attack or a [fatal] stroke. I would love it, but you can’t order that.

Q: Would you want your family around?
A: That I would love, yes.

Q: And then what, a pill?
A: Yes.

Q: Doesn’t that put the burden on someone else, if they have to assist you?
A: They don’t have to, they would be a volunteer.

Q: Would you prefer to do it yourself if you had the means?
A: No, I would not

Q: Why is that?
A: Because I am a coward. And it’s lonely.

Q: In 95 years, you’ve seen some of the worst and the best of the modern age. Everything from the Holocaust and segregation, to the civil rights movement, medical advances and a respect for civil liberties. As you consider your departure, are you optimistic or pessimistic about the future of society?
A: Oh, I’m optimistic. I always have been. That’s the way I am. I’m very lucky to be born in Canada. I count my blessings. It’s just a wonderful country.

Q: You’ve got tulips on the table. The sun came out this afternoon, I hear birds out there in your backyard. Do you really want to say goodbye on a day like this?
A: No, I don’t. But people are thinking about [assisted suicide]. And I’m glad they are.




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Maclean’s Interview: Bernice Packford

  1. I have an family memebr that is 104, this women has much to see yet.

    • I don't ever use that thumb button, but consider yourself thumb-upped. My grandmother is 96, and I hope she makes it to 104 (and more).

    • How good of you to speak for her. Do you do that for your own family member as well?

  2. I agree wholeheartedly with Bernice Packford's position.

    • And I wholeheartedy disagree. I think Bernice realizes that her life is not her own: that's why she speaks of gratitude for all she has been fortunate to have lived in Canada…. And that's why she doesn't wish to take her own life, but rather have someone else end it for her – as a 'volunteer'.

  3. There is a good reason suicide is illegal, and it doesn't involve Bernice Packford. Many people have suicidal feelings from time to time. A few of them, act on those feelings, and a few of those people succeed in committing suicide. However, a large number of people that do commit suicide would probably regret having done so. How do we know that? Because there are a large number of people who have been prevented from committing suicide, most of whom regret their suicide attempt. With counseling and medication, many people can go on to live happy lives.

    Public policy must assume that people who want to kill themselves (I suppose we can make an exception for the terminally ill) are irrational, and don't really want to do so. Why? Because it is usually true, and, frankly, if somebody really and truly wants to die, they can easily succeed.

    What Bernice Packford wants is for somebody else to take responsibility for her life. She wants to institutionalize and bureaucratize suicide. One might reason that she would feel guilty if she killed herself on her own. She damn well should, because suicide is a profoundly painful experience for everybody who cares for her. Far moreso than death, I should add, which has no associations of guilt.

    Suicide is illegal, at least for healthy individuals. But it is also unenforceable if somebody really wants to go through with it. That is the way it should be. Those that truly want to die, can easily succeed. At the same time our public policy response must be to try with every fibre of our being to keep people alive. Sometimes doctors save people from debilitating illnesses. The mental illness or even the profound sadness that drives some people to want to kill themselves is no different.

    • When I was 22 one of my best girlfriend's mother had been in a hospital for several years. She could not even lift a finger to turn a page. Previously she had tried to commit suicide but couldn't as she did not have the strength. I recall we had to carry her out to the car to take her to see a relative in Kingston, Ont. It was such an outing for her. She laid in the back seat motionless and then we carried her into her relatives and laid her down on the sofa where she was incapable of moving. She had numerous bed sores, was in pain and absolutely wanted to die. We treat animals better than we do people. A week or so ago I watched a PBS program about a man with a similar disease going to Switzerland, IIRC, to be put out of his misery. My Mom, who had been against euthanasia, totally agreed with it in her in her latter years. As I'm a stage IV cancer surviver I would like to have the option to put an end to my life rather than suffering. A few years ago I saw a friend die of cancer. No amount of drugs relieved her pain.

      • You are arguing for euthanasia, which is an entirely different issue from the case Ms. Packford is making. Ms. Packford is able-bodied and not suffering at all. She has decided to "quit while she is ahead" (which is an immeasurably stupid notion).

        Secondly, why is death more enjoyable than pain? We have no idea what death entails, feels like, etc. Is it possible that the feeling we have at that single second before our heart stops is worse than a thousand years of bed sores? If we are going to do something based on the notion that it is humane, we should at least know about it – yet we can't know what it is like to die.

        Quite frankly, you had the option to end your life with respect to cancer. You can avoid treatment, and go pretty quickly (probably with less negative side effects). If that isn't quick enough, well, there are ways. I don't think you really wanted to die, I think you wanted the pain to go away – there's a difference.

        My point however wasn't really about those issues. It was about how the law (and how first responders) treat able-bodied suicidal people like Ms. Packford. If somebody you didn't know stood sobbing over a bridge with a reputation as a suicide hot-spot, would you be inclined to try to talk to them out of it? Or would you feel that their killing themselves is their own business, and their own choice? What would you want EMS to do when they get calls about suicide attempts?

        Because when you craft public policy so that old ladies can die, the implications of that public policy affects thousands (if not millions) of others who may just be off their meds, who may have undiagnosed psychiatric conditions, or who may be going through a rough patch in your life. Frankly, I'm willing to have a few old people suffer, if the net result of that policy saves lives.

        • I agree with a few of your points, but you are a little too much of a know it all, and self appointed keeper of other peoples lives. I can sympathize with this lady when she says she fears something happening to her that will leave her helpless. I know I would rather check out than face that very real possibility if I should make it as far as she has. Perhaps it's time we REALLY LISTENED to people like this rather than impose our "Moral High Road" attitude on them?

        • "Secondly, why is death more enjoyable than pain? We have no idea what death entails, feels like, etc."

          Exactly, "…we have no idea…"
          When playing the "what if" game, where there is no possible way to prove the outcome, why is your guess better than someone else's guess?

          If you choose to believe death is horrible, you are free to that opinion. If someone else has a different one, they are free to have that opinion as well. Either way, death awaits us all.

          As for myself, regarding euthanasia/suicide, I'll reserve judgment until that situation presents itself to me.
          **I would be able to take more pain, if only it didn't hurt so much!** With that said, I think there should be an option to get relief from pain, that doesn't require painful methods (ie jumping off a building or in front of a train/bus/truck etc).

          Back to the EMS / Bridge situation, of course saving the individual would be the top priority. I'm sure the crafted public policy wouldn't involve bridges and would have safe-guards and due diligence.

    • suicide is actually not illegal.
      Only assisted suicide is. That's her point. Why is it okay for someone to choose to kill themselves, but she can't have someone help her do it? That's the argument at stake.

    • Suicide has never been a crime, since Canada's first Criminal Code in 1892. In 1972 "attempted suicide" was removed from the criminal law. Assisting in suicide has always been a crime. From 1892 to 1957 the penalty for assisting suicide was life imprisonment. The maximum penalty is now 14 years. There are 25 known prosecutions for this crime, and the longest sentence was three and a half years. — Russel Ogden

    • I agree. Moreover, the fact that those who advocate euthanasia or assisted suicide feel the need to 'justify' their stance points to life's sacred, inviolable character.

  4. I suspect that nearly everyone who is highly intelligent and creative has, on occasion, considered the possibility of suicide. I believe that if that is what a person decides to do, having exhausted ALL other options, then it is up to the person to obtain the means to do so and to carry out their plan without medical assistance.

    I realize this leaves out people who want to end their lives but are not capable of doing so themselves.

    As for me, I would not want extraordinary measures taken to preserve my life, I have CLEARLY indicated that to my family – and provided a Power of Attorney for Health Care as well as a current will. By doing so, I have at least spared my family members some pain.

    • Lets assume that suicide is a morally acceptable and reasonable act (I think it never is, but obviously we differ there). Isn't there some more meaningful and socially useful way in which somebody could give up their life than simply killing themselves?

      There are a myriad of good things that people could do, but don't because of their fear of death. If people want to die, why not take up some of those tasks? Alternately, if altruism isn't your bag, there are also some very enjoyable things that people avoid because it is bad for one's health. Highly addictive drugs, for instance, or at least smoking, eating delicious (but unhealthy) foods and alcohol abuse.

      My point is that there are vastly preferable ways to go, that will either make society, or just oneself better off. They may even vastly help family and friends cope with the death. "He died heroically defending his country" goes over a lot better at a funeral than "he died pointlessly by jumping off a bridge."

      • You ask why don't you make society better while dying? Most people don't spend one day putting others ahead of themselves. Bernice Packford put society ahead of herself for most of her life. I think she had the right to put herself first for one final time.

        • That question is important, because of why the government funds things. The government does not fund plastic surgery, which only benefits the recipient – it funds public goods. The government certainly doesn't subsidize public harms (and suicide definitely is a public harm). Yet establishing a psychiatric evaluation process (which would essentially be a universal psychiatric care system), and funding suicide doctors does exactly that. Moreover, because of the risk of abuse, this is definitely a service you would want to have under the government's purview. So even if you think Bernice Packford (who died last night) earned the right to die, it is less clear that the government has a strong reason to establish an institutional framework to help people commit suicide (except possibly, as Thwim argued for, as part of a harm reduction strategy).

      • She is talking as someone who is 95 years old. She is not advocating doctor assisted suicide for 14-year-olds. I hardly think there are many 95-year-old women in the military “dying heroically for their country”. I suppose that is what you meant by altruism, otherwise I'm not sure what altruistic acts you were thinking of that can kill you. Donating two kidney perhaps? Alas, the doctor performing that surgery would be accused of assisted suicide and we would be right back to where we started.
        If you are morally high-minded about assisted suicide, why are you not about cigarettes and alcohol? Surely you would consider the CEO's, tobacco farmers, etc. as assisting in her eventual death. Do you differentiate because there is some chance that she might die of something else first? Is it the gamble that she won't die of lung cancer or heart disease because of smoking that makes this situation ok? Truth be told, you God probably frowns on gambling too.

    • Avoiding extraordinary measures would not be euthanasia or assisted suicide.

      And how does one know if ALL options have been exhausted. This way of talking seems to place us on the level of gods… As though we were omniscient… Thank God I'm not! And 'm mighty thankfull too -following the same logic – that my life (and its end too) are in God's hands…

  5. Right on Lady. The problem is that as long as you can afford care society wants you to live so they can suck all the life blood and money out of you. If you were on the street costing them money they would assist you faster than you can say 'bye". Leave religion out of this. The main question is that society must accept the concept that your life is your life. The herd has now right to dictate your fate.
    Thw question should be asked. To what degree does society want to dictate to the individual.? To the point that they will not pick up a gun to kill themself, but to pick up a gun to kill those that oppose their wish.
    Food for thought/.

    • People's lives are not their lives. If people were truly individuals – reliant upon nobody but themselves, they would live in utter penury in a ditch somewhere. Collectively, we are all richer because we have traded in some freedom and some liberty, for public goods, for security, and so on.

      The problem with granting one person's "right" to die, is that it means you grant all people's rights to die. This is problematic, because most people who say they want to die don't really mean it. 40% of suicide attempts come from bipolar individuals, over 90% (unsurprisingly) display symptoms of depression. This indicates that their suicidal impulse is likely to dissipate in the near future. It is not an accurate reflection of their long-term desire. Indeed, if your friend say, took shrooms and said, I should totally kill myself, would that be an accurate long-term reflection of his will? Of course not. If you set public policy on the basis that first responders should respect the "right to die" they will have little ability to distinguish between cases of people that truly want to die, and those that don't.

      The second issue is that suicide doesn't only affect a single person. One of the leading causes of suicide is suicide by a family member. This is in addition to the immense pain suicide causes surviving relatives. It is not merely the pain of losing a lost one, but the sheer and utter guilt they will feel that they are somehow responsible. The feeling that if they were just a little bit nicer, they would not have lost a loved one. If somebody dies from some disease, it is a tragedy, but nobody is going to blame themselves.

      So A. suicide is rarely a rational reflection of people's will (in fact I believe it is never rational, because people cannot know what death entails, therefore the notion that their life will improve is utterly baseless), and thus makes for a rather poor case for a right. Rights only make sense in a world where rational individuals exercise them. B. Suicide results in a massive public harm. The notion that it is costless ignores the profound effects it has.

      • Nobody's suggesting, however, that the moment you say you want to die your wish should be instantly granted. You act like we wouldn't even consider requiring that the person see a psychiatrist for a period, and that steps be taken to make sure that this is really the person's wish.

        I find that highly implausible.

        • Firstly, you may be surprised to find that those checks and balances aren't really there in the legislation currently being considered. For instance, Francine Lalonde is proposing a bill wherein people that are lucid or that appear lucid could commit suicide. Moreover, she considers mental anguish as grounds for assisted suicide – precisely the kind of treatable factor that would likely render somebody incapable of making a "rational" decision.

          Secondly, I find your harm reduction argument very interesting – particularly given the nature of most suicide cases. Most are preventable, and, probably could be prevented if people took such channels. However, I also see a danger in normalizing and institutionalizing suicide – not to mention the legal precedents it would create. In the short term you are reducing a harm, while in the long-term you are legitimizing it, and making it more likely to occur. Balancing those two concerns will be difficult – if the application process for suicide approval rarely grants suicides, people will be unlikely to use it. If it often does, it diminishes the harm reduction, and normalizes suicide as a legitimate solution to problems (and I don't think you can argue that suicide is an effective response to any ailment).

  6. You life's work is commendable Bernice Packford! I hope that I am as coherent and wise as you in my old age.

    We should have a choice about these kinds of decisions. Remove religion and be practical about the policies and procedures about it.

  7. I can't agree with her position. If she wants to kill herself, fine, but she should do it on her own. Euthanaisa is completely different than what she is talking about.

  8. We don't decide when we are born, why should we then be able to decide when we die? It's just plain giving up due to fear of the future. Getting old, like everything else in life, isn't easy.

    • Ms. McNabb,
      I disagree with some of your statements.
      First sometimes parents decide when thier child is to be born, surely you have heard of induced labour.
      Second, your statetment "It's just plain giving up due to fear of the future" perhaps in the case of the recently departed (Mars 17/10) Bernice Packford it was fear of the future, But for some it is a gamble that death may just be better than the life they are living, surely an individual as the right to gamble. And answer me this, why shouldn't we strive to make life as easy as possible? I don't think I want to live more than another 10 or 20 years and I am 40.

      • Induced Labor doesn't guarantee the exact minute or hour. Not one parent can say that they had sex to make sure their baby was born on a certain day at a certain time, maybe they'll get in the ball park but that's about it so, we don't decide when we are born. And if a person thinks death is better than living then get some counselling. Life is what you make it and what you see it for. If all you see is misery and hopelessness then that is all there is for you. If you see the good in each day that's also what you'll get to live with. I am 41 and I want to live as long as I can. Whether that be 10 days or another 41 years.

  9. Sad, sad, sad, for all PERSONS who would do anything for another day, hour or minute on earth – shame on you!

    • I agree Ms. Monk,
      I don't understand these people who would do anything for a few more hours or a day. I don't say shame on them, I simply do not understand why they want to suffer.

      • My Mother had Breast Cancer and fought until the very end to stay here on earth. It wasn't because she wanted to suffer, it was because instead of seeing the pain and suffering she would continue to face she saw the family and the grandchildren she was leaving and wanted to desperately to stay and have more time with. If all you see is suffering that's all you'll get.

  10. I had the pleasure of delivering Ms. Packford her newspaper years back, and later discovered through my Grandfather (now 91 but who worked with Bernice in the 1950s) her incredibly selfless career dedicated to helping people and making her community a better place.

    I'm not sure if I agree in the state codifying suicide like this, solely due some personal paranoia that the government might evolve this into something akin to what Huxley laid out in "Brave New World", but I still respect Ms. Packford's point of view and would encourage people (I'm looking at you Anna Monk) to lay off the moralizing shaming.

  11. Unfortunately Hoppe destroys her ignorance.

  12. Well, from the interview, she sounds sane. Her arguments make sense, at least to her. And it is her existence. So, she should get to pick.

    She is not asking anyone to drug, gas, shoot, strangle or pull the plug on her. Read the interview. She just wants a pill that someone could give her, that painlessly and quickly puts her to the eternal sleep. She has had a good, long, productive life. What more does she owe us?

    I cannot but help feeling some empathy and support for her. She is not asking me to throw the switch. If I had the pill she wants, would I give it to her? Yes. I would put it in her hand. Would I shove it down her throat? No.

    Seems to me, that Parliament, should, since it costs Canada nothing, allow her the right to grant her wish. What, can't we afford nothing? She is not asking us to spend a million dollars. She just wants the right, permission, ability to make a (it seems) sensible decision, without anybody being persecuted on her behalf.

    Sadly, I would be sad to lose an intelligent, sane, thoughtful, person like her. We need more of them.
    Sadly, given society today, I think this may be one reason why she wants to leave us!

    • I agree with your writings whole heartedly Peirre.

  13. RIP formidable Ms. Packford, you were an activist to the end! Every adult should be able to make our own decisions about our bodies, be it pregnancy, treatment for illness/conditions, mutilation by a plastic surgeon to be 'handsome' or 'beautiful' or death. My body, my decision…your body, your decision.

  14. I am saddened by the lack of compassion shown by many of the comments. I, like Bernice, am intelligent, civic minded and hardworking, and I am afraid of the possible suffering a prolonged death may hold for me. I have, you see, watched my husband die such a death. I can attest that pondering whether to slit my wrists, or try to drown, or jump off a building is too scary for me. And why should I be denied the pill that my doctor could prescribe to allow me to die safely and peacefully if that is what I want? Surely we as a group can come up with a plan to protect troubled youth and the mentally incompetent, and at the same time let those who want to live as long as possible to do so, and those who do not, to be released compassionately.

    • Susan, I think that the deepest suffering is moral rather than physical: thus the loved ones of the dying might even suffering most…. Yet experiencing moral suffering can enlarge our heart, making us reach out to others: and so it makes us more human and compassionate. What the sick and those who care for them need is more support and love – along with proper medical care to relieve physical pain- not less. Assisted suicide's asks someone not to reach out but to 'cut off' and so dehumanizes both parties.

  15. it is a terrible thing to ask someone else to kill you it is killing.no matter how coherent the argument you do not want doctors to do this (it is illegal for them ) and so it should be most people die a very quiet and dignified death few do not but you people will continue to sensationalize it for your own purpose i pity you

    • Mr.Bob,
      How many deaths have you seen?
      How is it that you can say most people die a dignified death?
      I have watched people drown on thier own secreations with congested heart failure, it is definately painful and horrendous.
      I have had patients ask me to put them out of their misery more than once, I did not and am not sure if I could if it were legal, but many, many elderly people live in places that I consider perhaps worse than Prisons. I mean prisoners usually have the right to fresh air do they not. Well, elderlyin active treatment hospitals, who are waiting for beds in extended care homes go for months without a breath of fresh air. There is not enough staff or volunteers to take them out of doors. ANd no, modern hospitals do not have windows that open. So here is my sensational truth that I have witnized first hand weekly for the past 3 years.

  16. I think the idea of planning when you are going to die sounds wonderful. You could send out invitations, the funeral could start before your last breath. You could choose your favourite photographs to be displayed, and the music need not be organ blah. You could hold hands with those you love as you say good-bye. Better this than dying alone. I like this idea, sign me up please. I hope to leave life in about 10 or 15 years when I am 58 years old. Think I'll start planning this grand event now, hopefully laws will change by then so that I am not disappointed when I have to cancel because others think I must continue to live.

  17. Problem is that no one has ever come back to say ,there is nothing past that eternal sleep. Other than a book that tells a us a story that has last for over 2000 years. We still know the stoty of Christmas,Easter,etc. Why there are churches,why we believe,disbelieve,still debate. WHY??? Is there something out there. I would hate to take the chance to find out there is and I said ,screw it,no matter how great I was in life. Because,guess what,there is no starting over or changing my mind……

  18. Your congestive heart failure will kill you Bernice, or something will. Funny to have lived as long as you have and still be so enamoured of the illusion of control. Grow up.

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