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,


About Chantal Huinink

Chantal lives in Kitchener, Ontario, and has served with Christian Horizons for more than four years in various capacities. She is an experienced motivational speaker, social justice and accessibility advocate. Chantal has her Masters of Divinity and Social Work from Wilfrid Laurier Universityhas and a BA in psychology and human development from the University of Guelph.

4 Thoughts on ““Dear Elayne Shapray” – Assisted death or assisted life?

  1. Tate Mott on April 19, 2016 at 1:29 pm said:

    Chantal, I just saw Elayne on PBS a few weeks ago in the States:

    and I have been having an overwhelming feeling that I need to write to her so she rethought her situation. I also have a chronic illness that takes away my abilities to live normally, so just wanted to send her a message like your own. Did you guys connect after you wrote this?

    Thanks and thanks for writing this to her,


  2. Pingback: Assisted Living Meets Assisted Dying - Disability and Faith Forum

  3. Elizabeth on September 16, 2016 at 12:29 am said:

    If there was legislation in place today allowing for Assisted Suicide, I would apply to be granted access to it.
    My reasons for doing so stem solely from being disabled. I was not born with a single disability, rather, I have acquired multiple disabilities over time. The primary result of these is pain and limit functionality; neuropathic pain from nerve damage acquired during an operation, pain from having a broken back (in multiple vertebrae), various disorders of the spine that cause pain, an immune disorder that is difficult to manage and difficult to live within the limits that this disease imposes upon me. All of these things serve to limit what I can do. Most significantly, all of these conditions prevent me from being able to be fully independent and self-supporting. I have worked since I was fourteen and fully self supporting by the time I was eighteen. I was a happy person, until I lost my job as a result of being disabled. I lost my life when I became disabled and lost my job. Relationships are gone. Friendships are gone. Support groups are gone. Family is gone.

    We live in a society where disability and poverty (if alone) go hand in hand. As a result of this, my life has been taken over by what poverty does to a person: I have no sense of self-worth and accomplishment that I used to have. My every waking moment is tied up with disability and poverty. I used to look forward to the future. Now I have no future, just more of the same and I’ve had enough. When you don’t have more than twenty-five dollars a week on food, anxiety levels go through the roof. Food banks DO NOT bridge the gap, as I used to think (when I was able-bodied). Sign me up for that legislation or I’ll have to proceed without a physician. That’s just the way it is.

Your thoughts?

Post Navigation