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A more difficult goodbye

Scott Harrison: My partner Christina Bates ended her journey with cancer via MAiD. It was more difficult than it should have been.
Margarita Young/Shutterstock

Let me tell you a bit about my partner Christina Bates, and her cancer journey.

We had a full and fantastic life together. Nothing we had was based on a rule book, and we lived without regrets. We were both so happy we had lived so much life in such a short time.

Before I met Christina at the BC Legislature in 2013, she had already lived an amazing life. She was a professional belly dancer; an entrepreneur running a dance school; then she had three retail outlets on Vancouver Island with over 30 employees; she secured a Master's in Leadership; ran for MLA in 2013 and was a political staffer for the government after losing in that election.

August 3 – Emergency St. Paul’s

After two months of reduced energy and a year of trying to sort out her problems with her digestive track, she woke up and said, take me to the hospital. After seeing close to 20 health care professionals, 2 CT scans and an X-ray, she was sent home but told this was a life changing diagnosis.

August 17 – Cancer confirmed

They scheduled a coloniscopy and the results confirmed the life-changing diagnosis: colon cancer.

September 17 – First BC Cancer meeting

She was in and out of the hospital 2 times before we receive even worse news – her cancer is stage 4. The cancer had already spread to her lungs, liver, and stomach lining. Her life expectancy would be 4 – 6 months, or 2 – 3 years with Chemo, but she would be on Chemo the rest of her life.

There were no other treatment options.

To my surprise, she agreed to try the chemo, rather than pain management and MAiD, or Medical Assistance in Death.

It did not go well.

October 19 – Palliative care | MAiD no more Chemo

After the ½ dose of chemo, Christina's soul and cells simply couldn’t handle it. She told the cancer doctor the pain used to feel like a broken rib, and now it was like a horse kicking her in her side without end.

Chemo for life was not the path for her. She asked the doctor about MAiD, and he fully supported her decision.

November 1 – Palliative Care St. Paul’s

On October 31, after 11 days of good pain management, I came home to find Christina was in severe pain. We both knew this wasn't good, but she wanted to avoid the hospital for as long as possible. It was a horrible night – she couldn't keep the 10:00 pm pain meds down.

At 5:00 am I took her to St. Paul's, where she was admitted to palliative care. She couldn't keep anything down, food or meds. They wanted to give her a feeding tube to keep her alive.

The MAiD process at St. Paul's

She had submitted her MAiD paperwork four days earlier on October 27, and it was amazing how fast the service was from Vancouver Coastal Health. They got back to her within 90 minutes and set up her appointments for November 1 and 2.

On November 3, she told me she would die at 9 am on Sunday, November 7 – just four days ahead. MAiD services would be provided at the Vancouver General Hospital, because St. Paul’s Catholic values do not support all medical options funded by taxpayers.

November 4

Christina's IV was removed, which was possible because she had a port-a-cath from her chemo treatment for meds delivery.

November 5

With just two days to go, I reviewed the plans and process with the hospital social worker for one final time. A hospital transfer would be arranged for 8:20am. I was copied on an email from Vancouver Coastal Health, stating the MAiD drugs would be administered intravenously.

There was plenty of room for a medical procedure in this lovely room.

November 7

I came to spend my last few hours with her. Her energy had been leaving her body for a long time, and by then it was barely there. We hugged, talked, and got ready to say goodbye. Just like I promised back on October 19, I would hold her hand as she left this dimension.

Over those final days, Christina brought peace to many. It was a remarkable thing to experience. Watching her slowly die every day at home was a life-changing experience.


The nurse asks if Christina wanted some pain meds. After five requests, where the nurse tried to give her a full dose, a half dose was offered at 8:15am – just five minutes before we were scheduled to leave at 8:20am. She declined because she wanted to be alert for her death, and wanted to say goodbye to her loved ones. The doctor asked her consent one last time.

8:30 am

MIA transfer. I asked the nurse aid to find out what was going on. He said they were here but downstairs. He would not get them and suggested that I not go get them because I might miss them.

After exceptional care at St. Paul's, I now have a nurse trying to drug her up and an assistant who refused to help at this point.

8:44 am

Instead of being present in her final moments with her loved ones, Christina is texting the MAiD doctor, saying the transfer is not here. They show up at 8:45. We are supposed to be at the MAiD office for 8:45am, where her family is waiting for us.

9:00 am – arrival at MAiD office

As Christina said, they can't start without her. I can't explain to you how stressful this period of time was for her loved ones waiting at the MAiD office.

The basement where the medical procedure was provided.

9:07 am

No one told the MAiD team she was on a port a cath, which was a crucial piece of information. They begin to scramble. Thankfully they found the right attachment at the bottom of a bag. Imagine if they had to do an IV at that point. Her family was a mess.

9:10 am

She is knocked out, and two drugs stop her lungs and heart. It was humane, and I felt her energy leave us with purpose.

I can't open a private hospital, but the church can?

These religious organizations can operate a public hospital, but they can pick and choose what essential medical services they provide. How is that possible? So, I did some research.

Due to a master agreement with many denominational groups and the Ministry of Health, these operators can pick and choose what taxpayer-funded medical services they provide. This 1996 deal, mostly designed around abortion rights, is now used for many purposes, and can be terminated by either party with 12 months' notice.

Providence Health Care, the owner of St. Paul’s, was paid over $3 billion in the past five years from BC taxpayers and our on track for over $700 million this year.

Christina’s final hours leads me to conclude Providence and all denominational groups in BC should comply with the Medical Services Act, or the Minister should give them 12 months' notice.

The final hour of Christina's life was unfairly stressful, and completely avoidable. Christina and I always talked about fighting for better MAiD services later in life. I guess now, we will.