Former Catholic priest, 78, takes his own life with assisted suicide after being diagnosed with incurable paralysis disease - and films his dying moments
· John Shields, 78, died by medical assistance on March 24 in Victoria, Canada
· He allowed the New York Times to film the controversial last moments of his life
· He was diagnosed with amyloidosis, a rare and incurable disease in 2015
· The condition would rob him of the use of his limbs and stop his heart
· Shields chose to die by legal lethal injection in order to die on his own terms
· He was a former Catholic priest and the Catholic Church is against the practice
John Shields, 78, decided to die by the controversial method of assisted suicide - and allowed the New York Times to film his dying moments.
The former Catholic priest didn't let the Church's stance against the practice dictate how he chose to die and still had a spiritual poem read before he was euthanized.
Shields was diagnosed with the incurable and painful disease of amyloidosis in the fall of 2015, which would rob him of the use of his limbs.
As his condition worsened, he felt dejected and powerless until last year when he learned that he qualified for Canada's medical assistance dying program.
Shields, from Victoria, British Columbia, chose to die by medical assistance because he didn't want to lose his sense of dignity and this would allow him to die on his own terms.
In an intimate look at assisted suicide, the New York Times videotaped the last moments of Shields' life before he willingly had a lethal injection on March 24.
He said to the New York Times: 'One quality of life that’s important to me is my dignity — and sparing anxiety for my wife and daughter.'
Speaking of how he would be unable to care for himself and be fed through a feeding tube, he added: 'All of those painful and demeaning things. I considered beyond the threshold of how I would like to live.'
Shields was diagnosed with amyloidosis after he blacked out while driving and crashed into a tree.
A few months after the accident, doctors were able to identify through a heart biopsy, that his disease caused his heart to temporarily stop, causing the blackout.
The hereditary form of the painful condition, which is caused by an abnormal buildup of the protein amyloid, would eventually lead to no feeling in his arms or legs and ultimately stop his heart.
Shields said he knew he didn't want to die this way.
Shields' wife, Robin June Hood, said to the newspaper: 'We are befriending death. We're hold it. We're witnessing it. We are taking it back into our own hands.'
The night before he died, Shields held a large Irish wake in his hospice room - the only one in the area - where he was bedridden for the last few weeks of his life.
He had drinks and takeout brought in from one of his favorite restaurants, and his friends and family gathered around the elderly man as he beamed at them from his bed.
The video of his wake was filled with laughter and guests shared memories of the impact Shields had on their lives. After the farewell, Shields was rolled out of the room.
In the morning he was given the doses of lethal injection and was then taken home to his garden by his wife and step-daughter.
Doctor Stefanie Green gave Shields the option of assisted medical death, which was passed into law by Canada in June 2016.
It requires the patient to be terminally ill in order for them to qualify.
The law, drafted after Canada's Supreme Court last year overturned a ban on physician-assisted suicide, must receive formal approval from Governor General David Johnston, the acting head of state. That process is a formality.
The law is limited to residents who qualify for government-funded health services, which is an attempt to prevent people from crossing the border to obtain an assisted-suicide.
Assisted suicide is currently legal in Switzerland, the Netherlands, Albania, Colombia and Japan.
It is also legal in the US states of Washington, California, Oregon, Vermont, New Mexico and Montana.
Brittany Maynard was terminally ill when she decided to die at age 29.
She brought national attention when she ended her life in 2014 under Oregon's Death with Dignity Act, which was put in place in 1997.
A total of 991 people have died in Oregon under this act, as of January 27, 2016.
A new study by the University Health Network in Toronto examined medically assisted death in Canada and determined that it was 'existential distress' that led people to chose this option, not the pain of the disease itself.
They were suffering more mentally than physically, with several worried about the strain they cause on their families.
A study examining the first year Oregon had the law, published in the New England Journal of Medicine in 1999, said: 'Many physicians reported that their patients had been decisive and independent throughout their lives or that the decision to request a lethal prescription was consistent with a long-standing belief about the importance of controlling the manner in which they died.'