An elderly Canadian woman chose doctor-assisted suicide last month rather than go through another restrictive lockdown in her long-term care facility.
The story is troubling for a number of reasons, but chiefly, it highlights how quickly a spry and sharp social butterfly declined after her life was devalued by the extreme measures that were supposed to protect her.
Those measures actually drove her to the point where she chose to die.
CTV News reported Nancy Russell, 90, chose to end her life via controversial medically assisted suicide in October instead of go through the draconian lockdown measures imposed at the Toronto retirement home facility where she lived.
The outlet reported Russell declined significantly during a similar lockdown earlier this year amid the initial onset of the coronavirus pandemic.
Russell’s daughter, Tory, described her once agile mother’s decline.
“She, almost overnight, went from a very active lifestyle to a very limited life, and they had, very early on, a complete two-week confinement just to her room,” Tory Russell said. “She just truly did not believe that she wanted to try another one of those two-week confinements into her room.”
“She was just drooping,” Tory added. “It was contact with people that was like food to her, it was like, oxygen. She would be just tired all the time because she was under-stimulated.”
Russell was denied the essentials of socialization, love and exercise, and so she experienced a decline which she apparently couldn’t see herself coming back from.
The woman reportedly withered away in the spring while at the mercy of a system which made her life’s decisions for her.
Amid an international rise in reported cases of the coronavirus in recent months, a new round of retirement home lockdowns took effect across Canada, and Russell apparently couldn’t bear the thought of going through the ordeal again.
CTV News reported she requested a medically-assisted death, but was at first denied.
Such physician-assisted suicides are rare in the U.S., but that isn’t the case in Canada.
Russell eventually applied again, by which point “more concrete medical health” problems had manifested themselves, and she was approved, her daughter said.
In the days prior to Russell’s death, she was able to spend time with her family, Tory added, even as “her facility was in full lockdown.”
And it isn’t just Russell, with CTV News reported that more elderly Canadians are inquiring about medial assistance in dying, or MAiD, amid the pandemic.
“I would say it is an accelerator, not a cause for people’s MAiD requests,” said Dr. Susan Woolhouse, a member of the Canadian Association of MAiD Assessors and Providers.
“They met the criteria and wanted MAiD prior to lockdown but are choosing to die sooner than they would otherwise because the [long-term care] and retirement lockdowns, particularly visitor restrictions, are so miserable,” she told CTV News.
This of course calls into question the entire point of the lockdowns.
While most of those in society who choose to go along with limits on freedom complain of the isolation of sitting indoors, or of limited in-person interactions, most of those residing in long-term care facilities are simply at the mercy of what is happening around them.
These people, in many cases, have lived long, productive and impressive lives, and they’re are already isolated in so many ways.
But, for their own good, they’re told, they’re being kept away from those they love, and away from things which bring them joy.
Toronto’s government website states that the city’s long-term care residents can only be seen by “essential visitors.”
What and who is “essential” is of course relative to individuals, but not to the bureaucracy.
There are those out there who believe the government is looking out for their best interests, specifically when it comes to placing limits on commerce, mobility and social gatherings amid a pandemic.
Then there are those who understand the wise words of former President Ronald Reagan: “Government is not the solution to our problem, government is the problem.”
This is not to oversimplify the issue, or the world’s current health crisis.
Governments are made up of people, and some of them have good intentions. Some bureaucrats surely have families, too.
But the overall handling of the pandemic response by governments in Canada, the U.S. and much of Europe is an example of how quickly blanket policies such as lockdowns can exacerbate already bad situations.
What is the point of locking people down if it’s robbing them of their will to live?
How did civilized societies arrive at a place where protecting people equates to stripping them of their dignity and mental health?
Russell lived in Canada, where there are apparently physicians who subscribe to the Dr. Jack Kevorkian approach to medicine, and they’re waiting in the wings to administer a quick, painless death for those who have lost the will to go on after experiencing the isolation of restrictive lockdowns.
Doctor-assisted suicide is illegal nearly everywhere in the U.S. for a reason: It’s a state-sanctioned practice that depreciates the human condition, preying on the emotionally or psychologically vulnerable, while simultaneously playing God.
Proponents for euthanizing the sick argue the practice allows people to die with dignity.
But there is nothing dignified about a person being tormented by isolation to the point where they seek, and are offered, an escape from the forced nightmare their life has become.
In Canada, unwell people have the option to be killed with the help of those whose pledge was to do no harm.
But more broadly, why aren’t seniors given the option to roll the dice and live their lives free from the psychological torment of isolation?
Sure, in some cases, isolation for the frail from potentially sick people is the best bad option.
But lockdowns, generally speaking, are supposed to protect the elderly, yet these authoritarian measures can be just as harmful, if not more damaging, than the disease itself.
One can overcome an infection of the coronavirus, no matter their physical condition.
Suicide is permanent, as can be the loss of one’s cognitive and motor functions.
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