Tuesday, June 25, 2024

Heather's story of being pressured to "choose" MAiD.

"I am not you, and you have no right to push me to accept MAiD. I will never accept it! My life has value and no human being has a right to say otherwise." 

Heather Hancock
By Heather Hancock, an author and editor.

I've spent every moment from my first breath to the one a second ago fighting for what others take for granted. Why? I have Spastic Cerebral Palsy and have been labelled by doctors, teachers, therapists, lawyers, and society in general, as a second class citizen.

I live in Canada on the vast open prairies of Saskatchewan, but this province has only been my home for the last 5 years. I was born in Calgary, Alberta before there were NICUs and I weighed a whopping 1 pound 6 ounces at twenty-five weeks gestation. I should have died with less than a 2% chance of survival, but I was breathing on my own. There's no medical explanation for it... but God.

I was diagnosed with Cerebral Palsy when I was two. The doctors solemnly told my parents to put me into an institution for the rest of my short life as I "would never amount to anything." The medical community was in agreement that all disabled children were also retarded. A trip to the University of Alberta put an end to that false assumption.. At the age of three, I had the IQ of a five-year old. My disability is purely physical.


I was the first disabled child mainstreamed into the Calgary public school system. It was great for my education, but not for my social life. Fear and ignorance resulted in years of bullying and being ostracized by my peers and a few teachers. I graduated with Honours in 1986. Intermixed with all of this were multiple surgeries and regular physiotherapy appointments.


My adult life has been spent fighting for equity and accessibility in the workplace and the relentless toll that spasticity takes on the physical body. Chronic pain and fatigue became my new companions and I lost the ability to walk independently at thirty-three. The losses continued and by forty-four, I had to medically retire, after a quarter of a century working as a Unit Clerk in hospitals on Vancouver Island. I turned to writing and discovered I could educate others about my life through fiction, nonfiction, and poetry.


In 2017, all of the muscles in my legs spasmed simultaneously from the hips down both legs to the tips of my toes, and then the muscles just kept tightening and tightening. I could not move from the waist down. There were subsequent episodes in 2018 and 2019.

In hospital, I discovered a change in the attitudes of nurses, doctors, orderlies, and therapists. There was a subtle undercurrent that was almost tangible. I had nurses neglecting me, forcing me to try and walk while they stood at a distance and watched with arms crossed. It was evident the medical staff preferred not to treat me.


During my second episode of what I termed "spastic paralysis," there were words given to provide a framework for what quality of life should look like. If a person failed to meet that standard, then pressure was applied to get the person to accept medical assistance in dying (MAiD). It's a deceptively comforting term for euthanasia. It's been legal in Canada since 2016. I was in Victoria General Hospital in 2018 and was approached by a hospitalist who asked me if I had ever considered MAiD, given the incessant level of severe pain and fatigue I lived with. I made eye contact with the doctor and said, "God gave me life and He is the ONLY One who knows the number of my days. The answer now and from this moment on is NO."

The third episode in 2019 landed me back in the same hospital on a different unit, but my bed was in the hallway for my entire stay. It was humiliating. Again I was offered MAiD, and that doctor was given the same reply. It was the last straw for me. My GP retired in 2016 three years of lack of care had taken its toll and I left the Island and moved to rural Saskatchewan about an hour west of the Alberta border.


A month after moving into the new house, I had a very bad fall which landed me back in hospital, only this time it was the regional hospital in Medicine Hat, Alberta. A neurologist diagnosed what was happening and targeted a muscle in my lower back with therapeutic botox. It took three weeks for full effect and during my stay, the nurses and some doctors were very condescending.

One nurse came to my bedside in the early morning hours before breakfast and asked me "to do the right thing and consider MAiD." Her next words still ring through my head... "if I were you, I would take it in a heartbeat. You're not living, you're existing!"

I replied, "I am not you, and you have no right to push me to accept MAiD. I will never accept it! My life has value and no human being has a right to say otherwise."

The nurse stormed off and the next time she answered my call bell, she simply sneered at me instead of helping me get to the bathroom with my walker. I was very unsafe and talked with the head nurse of the unit and had her removed from my care. She wasn't reprimanded as the head nurse said it was a "personality clash."

I've had three stays in three different hospitals in Saskatchewan, and so far, this province has not pushed MAiD on me or anyone else within range of my sight or hearing. It's a wonderful relief.

With our federal government trying to manipulate the members of the House of Commons to pass laws that would throw wide open the criteria so more of the sick, terminally ill, disabled, mentally ill, elderly, and other vulnerable minorities could be coerced into accepting MAiD, or be given it against their will. That's a horrifying prospect.

I am a human being. My life has intrinsic worth. I won't allow anyone to say otherwise. I wasn't supposed to amount to anything, but I was a unit clerk, and I am now a published author and an editor. Words are powerful and I intend to wield them until my last breath. My stories educate and entertain. My poetry is raw and brings the reader into my world as a person with a disability. I fight many battles on different fronts, but the right to life is sacred, and should be treated with dignity and compassion. Sadly, the majority of our society have forgotten how.

25 comments:

Anonymous said...

Disgusting the way this woman was treated.We no longer have to guess how nurses and doctors were persuaded to kill the disabled and mentally retarded in nazi Germany .History has a habit of repeating itself.

P. O'Brien said...

What a wonderful woman!

Ave Crux said...

This is absolutely shocking and horrifying. What have human beings become that they treated you this way -- pushing you to commit suicide! You are heroic in the eyes of God. There is no telling how greatly you will be rewarded for your witness and steadfast adherence to His Holy Will for you. THANK YOU for the witness of your courage and generosity in your love for God.

Gaye Patterson said...

Thank you for sharing your story. Dear heart and I are getting our affairs in order and have a special rider that MAID is not acceptable to us. God has numbered our days. Psalm 139. We have declined things that we don't believe would serve us well. God is the life giver and He will be the determiner of our days. Thank you again for sharing. We both have medical issues with pain and disabilities and our lives are worth living.

Anonymous said...

Thank you Heather for using your many talents to stand up for all of us who value life!

Anonymous said...

I totally agree. I am also disabled

Anonymous said...

Where can I find her books?

Paulie said...

My dear friend, I am so very sorry you have been treated this way. God is known for taking the weak and making us strong for his glory and you are no exception. You bring to the world a voice of love and acceptance the world needs. May God continue to use you through your experience to reach the hearts of others. Love you dear friend

Jill said...

Heather, that's horrific. I am sickened by the treatment you have received. Thank you so much for bringing this to our attention. The evil that resides in this world is only going to get worse. I love you, my dear friend. Keep telling your story.

Heather Hancock said...

I have one novel published and I am working on my second novel.

Sister Lost is on Amazon and Kindle. Here’s a link:

https://rb.gy/ip2qv

Anonymous said...

Heather, your words are inspirational; keep standing up for your life and that of others. Your experience should horrify every medical practitioner. All of our lives are sacred gifts from God. Keep fighting!

Anonymous said...

Thanks. I look forward to getting it. For anyone interested it’s definitely there but for whatever reasons Heather Hancock doesn’t automatically come up on Amazon

Anonymous said...

Thanks. I look forward to getting it. For anyone interested it’s definitely there but for whatever reasons Heather Hancock doesn’t automatically come up on Amazon

musical gal said...

I'm so glad you are telling your story, and I hope those who offered you MAID read it, and repent or at least think what it must feel like to be on the receiving end . Did the botox help? Your story may help people understand cerebral palsy more fully .
Hoping you are treated better in Saskatchewan, I hear people are nice there and help their neighbour.
B

Anonymous said...

I'm so glad you are telling your story, and I hope those who offered you MAID read it, and repent or at least think what it must feel like to be on the receiving end . Did the botox help? Your story may help people understand cerebral palsy more fully .
Hoping you are treated better in Saskatchewan, I hear people are nice there and help their neighbour.
B

Anonymous said...

Heather you are a true witness to God! He loves the weak and humble. I think of Joni Earekson Tada who is a quadriplegic. Have you spoken to her? She is a wonderful inspiration to everyone! Yes, all life is valuable! It is the devil who wants to end our lives by euthanasia.

Thank you for your strong conviction!
God bless you, Heather!

Meghan said...

This is exactly the kind of thing that I experienced from my guidance and special education personnel when I was trying to graduate from high school and attend college-they bullied me and my family at IEP meetings, tried to stop me from taking college prep classes and bulliede when I had to meet with them alone, and observing behavior like that-seeing how eager people in authority are to bully marginalized people into doing what they thought was best-is one of the strongest reasons for my opposition to assisted suicide. No human being should ever be subjected to being alone in a room with someone who urges them to kill themselves. I’m sorry that you experienced this, but as a person with a disability I am so proud of you for standing up to that smug, self-satisfied nurse. Solidarity!

Darrell Jacobson said...

Wow! Good for you, Heather! I love your conviction, tenacity, and passion for life. May all the words that you have and shall dispense through your writing, and speaking, serve as guided projectiles, penetrating hearts and minds with the life, light, and hope of the Spirit of Christ!
Death, darkness, and depression be stripped of power at the entrance of Heather's voice, as in Psalm 119:130, in Jesus' name!

Margaret Welwood said...

Please consider sharing this post. The pro-MAiD folks like to talk about choice, but if people who are bedridden and in pain are pressured to end their lives by those who are paid to care for them, where is the autonomy we hear so much about? Please note that this nurse pressured Heather when she was without family or friends to defend her. Medical staff have power and prestige, and, like this nurse, can pressure vulnerable people when there's no one else around. Heather is well able to defend herself, but what about those who are not? And why should patients need to defend their right to live to hospital staff?

Anonymous said...

Me too

Carol - USA said...

So much for physicians taking the Hippocratic Oath to first do not harm. Maybe they don't take this anymore, I don't know, but they should. The reality of it is that people think they are totally in control of their lives. They are not. Anyone can experience illness or accidents and need help. The nurses and doctors should look at you as the miracle that you are and have compassion in caring for you. If they don't, they are living life without souls and are to be pitied in their arrogance of playing God.

Anonymous said...

If the MD or nurse offered MAIDS as a solution when options were not solicited by Heather, it is grounds for professional misconduct. Heather need or fear that she is fighting this fight alone. Her story just confirms my worst suspicions of the kinds of conversations that are going on in acute care hospital rooms between medical people, elderly parents and children die to receive inheritances. Parent: “We’ll, I really don’t want to be a burden to my children.” Child, (sighing): “We’ll make do somehow, mother.” MD:”It’s your decision, Glenda. If you decide to go ahead with it, I can do it for you. I can also take care of the paper work and it’s covered by the province. “

Lee said...

I am deeply involved in trying to get people to see ezactly what MAiD is. I have sent hundreds of Post Cards, which we designed by me, to the House of Commons in protest against MAiD. I have carefully researched MAiD and I'm postitve DRs, Nurses and anyone else involved in care is not allowed to suggest it. I just wrote about a veteran that was in a wheelchair and couldn't access her living space easily and when she asked for a ramp and a better wheelchair, was told by her agent from Veteran's Affairs to consider MAiD. That agent lost their job. You are a hero. You declared,as a sickly, tiny baby, that you would live. You chose life then, and you're choosing it now. Bravo!! As for any Dr or nurse that tells you any differently, remind them of the law.

Alex Schadenberg said...

Dear Lee:

Thank you for your comments. Sadly you are wrong about doctors and nurses suggesting it. They not only suggest it they specifically ask people who have not indicated interest in MAiD if they want it.

Nearly every major Canadian hospital has a MAiD team that does it and sells it.

Wynand said...

Heather, you words are inspiring. I so love how you answered the doctors who suggested MaiD to you - "God gave me life and He is the ONLY One who knows the number of my days. The answer now and from this moment on is NO." Amen to that! I am shocked and saddened by the medical system's treatment of you. No one likes to be admitted to hospital but added to that, having the fear of having someone push death at you and suggest that your life is somehow "less than" just because you have struggles must be truly awful and terrifying. As a doctor who has run a 250 bedded mission hospital in the past, I am wondering more and more (as our Government forces religious health institutions to offer MAiD), do you think it is time to start private hospitals and hospices (free of government funding) in which safety from MAiD is guaranteed?