Medically assisted death allows couple married almost 73 years to die together

The Brickendens are one of the few couples in Canada to receive a doctor-assisted death together, and the first to speak about it publicly

The Globe and Mail

Kelly Grant

When George and Shirley Brickenden tell the story of how they met, it’s like watching a charming little play unfold – one the couple might have workshopped for seven decades.

It was Christmas in Halifax, 1944. He was in the Navy and she was in the Air Force. Mr. Brickenden’s mother had tried to set them up earlier, but the timing didn’t pan out.

Mr. Brickenden, 95, grinned as he explained why.

“I said, ‘I haven’t got time for her for a few days because I’ve got a few dates.'”

Three of the couple’s four children, sitting nearby, groaned and laughed. They had heard this before.

Mrs. Brickenden, 94, interjected. “I was engaged to somebody else!”

“He’s always saying that he had to break his dates and he never mentions that I already had a ring.”

The Brickendens were reminiscing in a recent interview with The Globe and Mail about their first date – a fairy-tale evening that led Mr. Brickenden to propose marriage six days later – knowing that less than a week after the interview, they would be dead. . . [Full Text]

One thought on “Medically assisted death allows couple married almost 73 years to die together”

  1. Shirley Brickenden suffered from rheumatoid arthritis and her heart was failing. She had broken her hip in two places, though it does not appear from the article that this was an issue at the time of the report. George Brickenden was aged and frail; he appears to have developed cardiac arrhythmia, resulting in fainting spells. Some time prior to the news report he had been hospitalized with “infections and a life-threatening bout of the flu,” which do not appear to have been active when they were interviewed for the story. The reporter described both as “sharp, vibrant and elegant.” While the reporter was writing the story, Shirley Brickenden called to tell her about a sleepless night caused by rheumatoid arthritis pain. She was concerned that they had made light of their suffering during the interview. However, during their last days, as described in the news report, they do not appear to have been experiencing the kind of uncontrolled excruciating pain or suffering that is usually proposed as a reason for legalizing euthasnasia and assisted suicide. Their situation was markedly different from the circumstances of those who provided affidavits in support of the plaintiffs in the case of Carter v. Canada (Attorney General). It is doubtful that the plaintiffs would have been successful had they sought legalization of euthanasia and assisted suicide for elderly people suffering from rheumatoid arthritis and cardiac arrhythmia. However, a physician in Ontario who refuses to provide euthanasia for a couple in this situation and who refuses to refer them to someone willing to do so may be forced out of medical practice by the province’s medical regulator.

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