Funeral Homes Plan for Assisted Deaths

In recent years, many families and community resources have strived to make the end of life less clinical, creating settings where loved ones can gather and provide a familiar, comforting, and less stressful death.  But when a loved one passes at home, the family may have a difficult time processing the memory and would prefer another option that avoids hospitals and a sterile environment. 

According to a recent CBC News report, in response to COVID-19 restrictions, one funeral home in London, Ontario, has begun providing a quiet, comfortable space where a loved one can have a medically assisted death.   Since the 2016 legalization of Medical Assistance in Dying (MAID) in Canada, the number of MAID deaths has increased from 1,000 to nearly 7,600.   Almost half of these deaths occur at home, while about 28 percent happen in hospitals and 17 percent in palliative care facilities. 

But some families do not wish to have the lingering memory of a loved one dying at home and with so many pandemic limits on in-person gatherings, Northview Funeral Chapel recently began converting rooms where families could gather to send off a loved one in a comforting environment.

Families are encouraged to bring music, flowers, food, or wine if they desire or other items from home that might offer a familiar, more reassuring setting.  Soft lighting, guest seating, local artwork, a hospital bed, and a reclining chair also help make the room less clinical.  Family can display photos with a TV screen and a nearby space can accommodate family or friends who would rather be close but not in the room at the time of death. 

Other funeral homes will likely follow suit to accommodate changing end-of-life wishes and although other services such as a memorial, burial, or cremation can be provided, transfer to another facility can be accommodated, according to local funeral home owner Paul Needham of Northview and David Mullen, owner of A. Millard George Funeral Home who also plans to add a similar room for clients by early 2022.