The following is an open letter from Chantal Huinink to Elayne Shapray, a 68-year-old woman with MS who appeared recently on CTV News. Elayne is an advocate of assisted suicide in Canada who first appeared in the news in October, 2013 when she stepped forward to challenge the criminalization of assisted suicide before the Supreme Court of Canada. In February, the Supreme Court struck down the ban on assisted suicide, giving legislators 12 months to respond to the ruling (the ban stands until then). Recently, the Liberal government has requested an additional six-month delay in order to respond to ‘important and complex issues’ surrounding the legislation. 

Dear Mrs. Elayne Shapray,

Elayne Shapray with her grandchildren - Credit Shaw Media, 2015

Elayne Shapray with her grandchildren – Credit Shaw Media, 2015

I wanted to write to you after seeing your recent appearance on CTV national news. I am sorry you are suffering from extreme pain and feel like you have few options. I am sad you are losing hope and I am glad it is not gone completely. I am sorry that you feel like you cannot do anything for yourself anymore. I understand your desire to do things like feed yourself, hug your grandchildren and use your arms.

My name is Chantal Huinink. I can identify with you in some respects. I live with Cerebral Palsy. I began using a power wheelchair at the age of two almost 30 years ago. I also have limited use of my arms. Therefore, I rely on others for assistance with personal care and tasks of daily living. I do not like posing an inconvenience for others. However, I do not want people to think that being in a wheelchair or having a disability is reason to want to die. I have realized that the relationships I have formed with those who assist me on a regular basis are often mutually beneficial.

Furthermore, the meaning of life is not necessarily found in what I can do but in who I am and what my God-given purpose is.

This continues to unfold each day of my life. I have hope because I know that there is purpose in both good times and bad. In fact, I have often felt greater purpose in times of pain and struggle, rather than times of ease because the reward seems that much more worth it.

I do not want you to suffer any more than you have to, but there has to be a solution other than physician-assisted death, because whether it seems like it or not, I believe every person, including you, is here for a reason.

I hope you know that your life has value regardless of what you can or cannot do for yourself. You can still make a valuable impact on those you come into contact with.

I pray that those close to you are grateful for your presence and the opportunity to offer help to you when you need it most. Whether or not you are able to hug your grandchildren with your arms does not matter if they know you love them and they love you too. They and others may learn a great deal from your perseverance.

Respectfully yours,