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Another case of a sick Canadian offered death instead of treatment — this time, a veteran

National Post logo National Post 2022-08-17 Tristin Hopper
The two incidents add to a growing list of controversial cases in which Canadians with chronic conditions were offered death in lieu of treatment. © Provided by National Post The two incidents add to a growing list of controversial cases in which Canadians with chronic conditions were offered death in lieu of treatment.

Another case has emerged of a chronically ill Canadian patient being offered euthanasia instead of treatment.

This week, Global News interviewed a Canadian Forces veteran suffering from PTSD who was  casually offered  the option of euthanasia during a conversation with an employee of Veterans Affairs Canada.

The veteran, who was not named, was trying to seek help in recovering from traumatic brain injuries suffered as a result of his military service, which included combat deployments.

Unprompted, a Veterans Affairs Canada service agent then mentioned that the veteran could opt for a medically assisted death. Family members of the veteran contacted by Global News said that he felt betrayed and disgusted by the offer, and that the encounter derailed what had previously been a gradual and positive shift towards recovery.

“VAC deeply regrets what transpired,” read a statement issued to Global News by Veterans Affairs Canada.

The story comes only days after a  widely circulated Associated Press feature broke revelations about a patient in London, Ont., who was similarly given an unprompted offer of euthanasia.

Roger Foley suffers from a degenerative brain disorder and claimed he was being offered euthanasia so regularly that he began secretly recording hospital staff. In one recording obtained by AP, a hospital ethicist tells Foley his care is costing the hospital “north of $1,500 a day” and asks if he has “an interest in assisted dying.”

The two incidents add to a growing list of controversial cases in which Canadians with chronic conditions were offered death in lieu of treatment.

B.C. woman Donna Duncan was approved for a medically assisted death last year after years of declining mental health exacerbated by a chronic inability to access psychiatric care.

Duncan’s death in an Abbotsford hospital so blindsided her family that they reported the case to the Abbotsford Police. “While we have been advocates of death by Medical Assistance in situations where there is a terminal diagnosis or death is imminent, we had no idea that Canada’s laws leave considerable room for interpretation by activist doctors,” they wrote in a statement at the time.

Another British Columbian, Alan Nichols, was euthanized only days after his family brought him to a Chilliwack hospital to recover from a psychiatric episode. Despite Nichols’ history of severe mental illness and suicidal tendencies, he was approved for death by health authorities after only four days in the hospital’s psychiatric ward.

In 2016, Canada joined only a handful of jurisdictions in the world to legalize doctor-assisted suicide, which is officially referred to as medical assistance in dying (MAID). Although, at the time, MAID was strictly limited to Canadians with terminal illnesses whose death was “reasonably foreseeable.”

After a Quebec Superior Court ruling struck down the “reasonably foreseeable” provision as unconstitutional, the government of Prime Minister Justin Trudeau responded by greenlighting a series of reforms that has effectively given Canada the most permissive euthanasia laws in the world. Starting in March, euthanasia will even become available to patients whose only underlying condition is a mental illness.

Euthanasia is rapidly becoming one of Canada’s leading causes of death. In 2021, Canada saw 10,064 cases of euthanasia, representing 3.3 per cent of all national deaths. What’s more, that figure represented a 32.4 per cent increase in assisted deaths as compared to the previous year.

“All provinces continue to experience a steady year over year growth,” reported Health Canada .

And amid an unprecedented Canadian health-care shortage leading to increasing instances of emergency rooms shuttered by understaffing, the federal government’s own internal calculations have identified euthanasia as a potential cost saving.

In 2020, a report by the Parliamentary Budget Office estimated that each MAID death represented approximately $17,000 in savings on “end of life costs.”

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