Obit: In lieu of flowers, write your MP about right-to-die legislation

Winnipeg woman died March 3 from complications related to her decision to refuse insulin

WINNIPEG — An 89-year-old Winnipeg diabetic who had recently been diagnosed with stage four breast cancer has chosen to end her life by refusing to take her insulin.

And in lieu of flowers, her family is asking people to write politicians to show support for broadly defined right-to-die legislation, and to urge legislators to act soon.

According to an obituary published in the Winnipeg Free Press, Jess Bowness died March 3 from complications related to her decision to refuse insulin.

In the obituary, her family says they supported “her gutsy decision to die on her own terms.”

They also criticized “the legal and medical vacuum that still exists around the right to die,” noting her death “took longer than it needed to” and there was “more discomfort and distress than needed to be.”

The Supreme Court of Canada struck down a ban on physician-assisted dying last year but gave the new Liberal federal government until June 6 to come up with replacement legislation.

In the obituary, Bowness’s relatives wrote of her flamboyant personality and love of shocking people or making them laugh.

However, with diabetes, heart disease, arthritis, quadruple bypass surgery, neuropathy, memory loss and the cancer, “she’d had enough. There wasn’t enough laughter anymore.”

Related: A final partisan plea—from the grave

Bowness was born in Singapore, where she worked as a nurse during the Japanese occupation of the city-state during the Second World War.

She, her husband and children emigrated to Canada in 1965 and her husband, Michael, who died in 1999, became a professor of biochemistry at the University of Manitoba.

Her obituary describes her as “stylish to the point of eccentricity,” noting an outfit she wore once to an event to raise money for a son’s terminally ill friend: “Silver knee-high platform leather boots, sparkly silver pants that tied at the knee, black-and-white striped blouse … and lots of silver snake jewellery, bracelets and necklaces, some wrapped into her hair.”

The obituary recalls that sometimes, out of boredom, she would answer her phone with “city morgue.”