Science | Health

Assisted Suicide Allows Couple Of 73 Years To Die Together

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Fred Lum/The Globe and Mail

When my partner and I got married, we took our vows to heart.

Like most couples, we said "to death do us part" with the utmost sincerity, and couldn't imagine it any other way.

While we're not always together (we have vastly different careers that take us to the opposite side of the country), the thought of not having him in my life breaks my heart.

This feeling has only gotten stronger as we've become older and built a life around each other. With three kids and two dogs, my husband has been my best friend, support system and rock.

This ideology isn't only held by us, as other long-term couples have shared the same sentiments, adding they couldn't live without each other, literally.

While there have been several stories of partners dying on the same day of their spouse in the media, they've all occurred naturally, and not by human-intervention - until now.

George, 95, and Shirley Brickenden, 94, had been married just shy of 73 years when they decided to receive a doctor-assisted death together.

George and Shirley on their wedding dayFred Lum/The Globe and Mail

More commonly known as assisted suicide, the couple from Halifax, Canada decided to share with the public "what it meant to them to die at a time and place of their choosing," before they passed away together in March earlier this year.

The grandparents invited a journalist from The Globe and Mail to their predeath parties before they scheduled themselves to die. The day was reportedly filled with conversations "full of gratitude, gentle teasing and gallows humor," with family members coming from across the world to say their goodbyes.

"We witnessed, many years ago, someone we loved very much, a family member, who lived for several years and turned from being a magnificent human being into somebody you couldn’t recognize, that lay in bed and made noises," Shirley explained.

"We thought then, 'Well, I don’t care what happens when we get to zero. When we know it’s the end, we’re not going to do that,'" she added.

In 2016, the Canadian federal government passed a law that allowed medically assisted dying for people who were "suffering intolerably from a grievous and irremediable condition" and whose deaths were "reasonably foreseeable."

The elderly couple decided to find out if they qualified under the government's new terms, and while Shirley did due to her rheumatoid arthritis and failing heart, George was not.

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