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90-year-old woman opts for assisted suicide when faced with the possibility of another COVID-19  lockdown


Terrible choices

Photo by Daniel Berehulak/Getty Images

A 90-year-old Canadian woman opted for assisted suicide when faced with another mandatory lockdown in her Toronto retirement home.

What are the details?

According to CTV News, Nancy Russell, a mother, grandmother, and great-grandmother, opted for medically assisted death in October.

Her friends and family, according to the outlet, congregated in Russell's room on the day of her death, where they'd gathered and sang a song she had chosen to send her on her way.

Residents at Russell's retirement home often ate meals alone in their rooms during mandatory lockdowns, were faced with activities cancellations, and were unable to see family for days or weeks on end.

"These measures," the outlet reported, "aimed at saving lives, can sometimes be detrimental enough to the overall health of residents that they find themselves looking into other options."

Other options, in this case, are defined as medically assisted suicide. Russell's family told the outlet that their loved one chose a "MAID" — or "medically assisted death" — after she "declined so sharply during lockdown that she didn't want to go through more isolation this winter."

"Being mobile was everything to my mom," her daughter Tory explained. "My mother was extremely curious, and she was very interested in every person she met and every idea that she came across, so she was constantly reading, going to different shows and talks. [She] was frequently talking about people she met and their life stories, very curious, open-minded. So for 90, she was exceptional."

What happened after the lockdown?

The country's first mandatory lockdown took place in the spring months, and Tory revealed that her mother rapidly declined shortly thereafter.

"She, almost overnight, went from a very active lifestyle to a very limited life, and they had, very early on, a complete two-week confinement just to her room," she explained. "[My mother] understood the fragility of the people in the building and the importance of protecting them, so it was just a very difficult time."

Russell's decline became more and more noticeable as time passed, her family says.

“She was just drooping," Tory said. “It was contact with people that was like food to her, it was like, oxygen. She would be just tired all the time because she was under stimulated."

The outlet reported that Russell had long been a proponent of assisted suicide, and that the pandemic and resulting lockdown measures apparently seemed like a good time to go.

"She just truly did not believe that she wanted to try another one of those two-week confinements into her room," Tory added.

She died on her own terms

The outlet reported, "On Oct. 20, Nancy Russell died with her loved ones by her side, honoring her wish for a death on her own terms. Before her death, she spent eight days at the home of one of her children, while family members and friends visited in person or called and emailed. They played games and told stories in the backyard."

Tory said that her mother was able to "direct a peaceful, pain-free death on her own time" and "avoid a great fear of hers, which was to endure winter and lockdowns."

“I worry about seniors, I worry about families who feel helpless. I felt helpless and I believe some other members of my family did at times," Tory added.

In Russell's obituary, she is described as "ever adventurous."

"Nancy departed this world with her wits intact and her expansive curiosity tempered only by a willingness to let the mystery be," her obituary read.

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