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Connecting with The Diana Pathway

Reflections on MAiD from an HHA Intern

May 2024

Written by Kara French, Student Intern


HHA's Diana Pathway Program reflects some of the most important values we have as aspiring social service workers: autonomy, empowerment, and respecting the dignity of all people. I’ve seen MAiD give those things back to someone firsthand. I think it’s wonderful that HHA has a program that not only directly supports folks going through the MAiD process but also works to destigmatize it and help people process their emotions about it.

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Pictured: Diana, the first MAiD client that HHA supported.

My Personal Connection to MAiD

No one who knew my stepmom Alania for more than thirty minutes would have been surprised to learn she had scheduled her own death. She was a woman who knew how to run things. My childhood was full of to-do lists, chore rotations, housework calendars, and perfectly planned outings. Every year at Thanksgiving, Christmas wish lists were due, and there was a well-oiled rotation of which tree went in which room with which decorations.

So, in March of 2019 when she was diagnosed with stage 4 pancreatic cancer, she did what she did best and made a plan. There was a whole binder dedicated to mapping out treatment plans, managing appointments, what home care was needed, who would be driving who where, a list of food for me to purge from her pantry, the flight details of visiting family members, and anything else you could think of.

If anyone could have out-planned cancer, it would have been her.

Unfortunately, by the summer of that year, the tumor was showing no signs of becoming surgical, and her quality of life was rapidly declining. I am grateful she was able to access MAiD. Cancer robbed her of so much control over her own life, and the ability to have that one, last, critical choice returned to her meant a lot. She got to go out in defiance of the cancer, surrounded by the people that loved her the most. I couldn’t imagine an end for her that more reflected who she was.


Image by The Good Funeral Guide
No One Said It Was Easy

When it comes to MAiD, there are lots of logistics that need to be sorted, legal requirements to meet, doctors to be involved, all on top of managing the illness. It wasn’t easy emotionally either. Figuring out how to spend your days when you know they’re the last you will get with each other is messy and difficult. (I wouldn’t give one of those days back though.) Her sister, a devoted Catholic, found the idea very difficult, as did others in their religious community. It took a lot of time, conversation, and a kind parish priest willing to provide the last rites despite knowing The Plan, for her sister to find peace with the situation.

The Diana Pathway Makes a Difference

Any program that helps navigate the MAiD process, and creates space for people to unpack the complicated feelings and thoughts that it shakes up, is a good one in my book. The Diana Pathway’s approach of direct support, education, and space-holding really resonated with me as important work to be doing for the folks in hospice who choose this path.

If you're a Death Doula looking to support MAiD clients, HHA offers a specialized training that will empower you to expand your practice. Learn more about our MAiD and the Death Doula Certificate Program here.

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