Saskatoon man calls for changes to assisted-dying law after wife’s death

David Dunn sat beside his wife, held her in his arms and watched as she slowly died from a drug overdose in their apartment.

Cecilia Bernadette Chmura was 59 years old and, for more than 20 years, had suffered from fibromyalgia, a chronic syndrome that leads to muscle pain.

Dunn said Chmura’s condition had deteriorated in the last five years. Her pain was excruciating and her quality of life was horrible.

His wife of more than 30 years spent hours in bed, sometimes only making it out for supper.

Medical marijuana brought the pain down and morphine pills made her dopey, but she was never pain free.

“The pain was unbearable,” Dunn said on the phone from his home in Saskatoon. “Death could not be any worse than her life, unfortunately.”

Chmura told her kids last July that she had applied for a medically assisted death.

When Dunn said his wife received a phone call last fall saying that she didn’t qualify because she wasn’t within six months of imminent death, she was devastated. Canada’s assisted-dying law requires that a natural death is “reasonably foreseeable.”

“That was a really bad day for her,” Dunn said. ”She sobbed constantly the rest of that day. It was horrible.”

Dunn said Chmura researched how to end her life and on Jan. 18, he heard the coffee grinder start up.

She had put her medication in it. She ate the grounds with some pudding and washed them down with vodka and orange juice.

It took Chmura two hours and 15 minutes to die.

Dunn said he didn’t know whether his wife’s attempt to end her life would work and he thought about calling 911 if she kept breathing.

When emergency services showed at their apartment after Chmura’s death, Dunn was taken to the police station to provide a statement.

After seeing what his wife went through, he is calling for changes to the federal law that governs doctor-assisted dying.

He said he wants to see it become more inclusive, so that “people like Cec can access that, people of sound mind that have jumped through all the hoops and just want to end their suffering.

“Government has to be above all that and look at those things. It’s almost like the government didn’t want to upset anybody so they didn’t please anybody either.”

Shanaaz Gokool, the CEO of Dying with Dignity Canada, said people living with severe chronic illnesses were excluded when the assisted-dying bill was passed two years ago.

“That legislation failed those people terribly,” she said. “I think that the legislation lets down Canadians all across the country and it’s unconstitutional.”

Health Canada’s most-recent report on medically assisted death, released last October, said there were 38 requests for a medically assisted death in Saskatchewan between Jan. 1 and June 30 of 2017. Of those, 18 were carried out. Eleven people died before their assessments were done.

The federal department did not immediately respond to a request for comment.

Saskatoon police say there are no charges pending against Dunn. The file will be closed when officers receive paperwork from the coroner’s office.

Dunn and Chmura loved to go on canoe trips together. He plans to spread her ashes at Otter Rapids in northern Saskatchewan this summer.

He said he’s still trying to get used to the pain.

“I lost my life partner. I lost my soulmate,” he said.

“Cec believed in reincarnation and she believed that we have been a couple before, so I guess we’ll be a couple again some day.”

Just Posted

WATCH: Red Deer celebrates National Indigenous Peoples Day

A celebration ceremony was held at City Hall Park Thursday afternoon

Sylvan Lake presents waterfront concept

Sustainable Waterfront Area Redevelopment Plan will provide 20-year vision

Red Deer-raised artist wins the chance to exhibit at San Diego Comic Con

Micaela Dawn said courage can’t exist without fear

BioBlitz set for Lacombe Lake

Well-known Alberta naturalist to take stock of Lacombe Lake’s flora, fauna and fungi

Red Deer elementary school students play Indigenous games

Annie L. Gaetz Schools holds first-ever First Nations, Métis and Inuit Field Day Thursday

Deadline for property tax payments coming for Red Deer residents

For property owners in Red Deer, the taxman cometh. The deadline for… Continue reading

Town of Ponoka, AUPE set to resume negotiations in July

Town council rejected agreement reached between administration and union

New evidence that viruses may play a role in Alzheimer’s

WASHINGTON — Viruses that sneak into the brain just might play a… Continue reading

Amber Tamblyn novel flips gender stereotypes as it examines rape culture

TORONTO — Actress and author Amber Tamblyn started writing “Any Man,” her… Continue reading

Mike Colter brings the pain as the indestructible Luke Cage

ATLANTA — “Black Panther” broke box office records, but “Luke Cage” once… Continue reading

Toronto police strike blow to gang with ties to the U.S. and Caribbean: chief

Toronto police say they’ve taken down a large portion of a street… Continue reading

Canada focusing on existing climate plan, has no timeline to increase ambition

OTTAWA — Environment Minister Catherine McKenna says Canada has no immediate plans… Continue reading

Most Read


Five-day delivery plus unlimited digital access for $185 for 260 issues (must live in delivery area to qualify) Unlimited Digital Access 99 cents for the first four weeks and then only $15 per month Five-day delivery plus unlimited digital access for $15 a month