An urgently important exploration of the human stories behind Canada's evolving acceptance of Medical Assistance in Dying (MAiD), from one of its first and most thoughtful practitioners.
Dr. Jean Marmoreo spent her career keeping people alive. But when the Supreme Court of Canada gave the green light to Medical Assistance in Dying (MAiD) in 2016, she became one of a small group of doctors who chose to immediately train themselves in this new field. Over the course of a single year, Marmoreo learns about end-of-life practices in bustling Toronto hospitals, in hospices, and in the facilities of smaller communities. She found that the needed services were often minimal--or non-existent.
The Last Doctor recounts Marmoreo's crash course in MAiD and introduces a range of very different and memorable patients, some aged, some suffering from degenerative conditions or with a terminal disease, some surrounded by supportive love, some quite alone, who ask her help to end their suffering with dignity and on their own terms.
Dr. Marmoreo also shares her own emotional transformation as she climbs a steep learning curve and learns the intimate truths of the vast range of end-of-life situations. What she experiences with MAiD shakes her to her core, makes her think deeply about pain, loneliness, and joy, and brings her closer to life’s most profound questions.
At a time when end-of-life care and its quality are more in the public eye than ever before, The Last Doctor provides an accessibly personal, deeply humane, and authoritative guide through this difficult subject.
About the authors
Johanna Schneller writes for publications such as The Globe and Mail, Vanity Fair, GQ, and Toronto Life. The Toronto Film Critics Association named her “one of North America’s leading freelance journalists."
“Dr. Jean Marmoreo has spent her medical career at the leading edge—of feminist practice, of comprehensive primary care, of pregnancy and birth care . . . and now as a witness to and faciliator of death. The moving and insightful moments of The Last Doctor offer a glimpse into the end of life in its complexity and beauty, and also into the remarkable gifts of one of Canada’s greatest family physicians.” —Danielle Martin, MD, bestselling author of Better Now: Six Big Ideas to Improve Health Care for All Canadians
“Powerfully honest and compelling, this book tackles the tough questions head on. MAiD is about choice, and these stories capture the truth of those who choose a dignified departure and the wonderful human beings who make it possible. Jean is one of those. In a simple yet profound way Jean makes the case that while MAiD does take away someone’s life, it first gives it back to them. That is indeed the power of good. Without the brave souls who take the risky, first steps we would have no Medicare, . . . no vaccines in this country. And without their compassion we would not have Medical Assistance in Dying to help those who want autonomy in life—and in death.” —Senator Pamela Wallin, Advocate for MAiD and Advance Requests, Member of the Special Joint Parliamentary Committee on Medical Assistance in Dying
“I couldn’t imagine saying that a book on medical assistance in dying was an irresistible page-turner, but that was before I read The Last Doctor. [This] wise, humane and yes, humorous, account of Marmoreo’s end-of-life practice features a cast of memorable, vividly drawn characters who for various reasons want to die. Deftly weaving memoir and the changing complexities of Canadian law, the book centres on Marmoreo’s self-portrait — a woman who is not afraid to admit she was wrong, who can change her mind and whose work with the dying forces her to re-consider life, death, dignity, loneliness and the Canadian medical system. . . . I couldn’t stop reading The Last Doctor.” —Katherine Ashenburg, author of The Mourner’s Dance: What We Do When People Die and Her Turn
“We can’t all have Jean Marmoreo as our family doctor, alas, but we can read this wise, compassionate and courageous memoir of her pioneering work. . . . The Last Doctor tells the gripping stories of the patients Marmoreo has helped to die, but it also probes the quandaries that confront all of us, doctors and patients alike, as MAiD expands its parameters in a rapidly aging society. The Last Doctor is the book you must read before talking about your end of life wishes with your loved ones and your legal and medical advisors. Don’t hesitate. There’s no time to waste.” —Sandra Martin, author of A Good Death: Making the Most of Our Final Choices
“The Last Doctor is a majestic book about the power of kindness and the language of love. It will change forever how you think about medically assisted dying. Your end-of-life self will love, honour, and cherish Dr. Jean’s insights.” —Dr. Joe MacInnis, author of Deep Leadership
"The Last Doctor is more than an excellent primer and advanced read about MAiD, its history and evolution. It is a reminder of the fragility of life [as well as] the inside and honest story of a medical doctor tackling her own fragility and personal history. . . . [It] guides us along a path of self-questioning, encourages us to think outside a box that slides into the ground, if it does not hold humanity. . . . Failures and weaknesses inherent in the system of care are bravely addressed without shrinking from debate that is often mired in the politics of economics and a small population. In the end, the real end, we understand the connection of life to each of us—those at the end of the road and those who will be left behind to grieve. . . . This book offers the hope that we all need.” —Dr. Roberta Bondar, astronaut, scientist, physician, writer, photographer