A Canadian veteran and former Paralympian said last week before a parliamentary committee that she was offered assisted suicide when she asked for a wheelchair lift to be installed in her home.
Retired Corporal Christine Gauthier, 52, who competed in the 2016 Paralympics in Rio de Janeiro, told the committee that a caseworker from the Veterans Affairs Canada (VAC) offered to provide her with a medically-assisted suicide kit.
Christine Gauthier lost the use of her legs serving in the Canadian army. She’s a paralympian.
When she complained to a govt. caseworker about how long it was taking to get a stairlift, he offered her euthanasia as an alternative.https://t.co/pLfKVoJWtR
— JamesHeartfield (@JamesHeartfield) December 3, 2022
The incident reportedly occurred during a phone call to VAC, where Gauthier described her deteriorating health condition.
“I have a letter saying that if you’re so desperate, madam, we can offer you MAID, medical assistance in dying,” Gauthier said in a hearing before the House of Commons Veterans Affairs Committee.
“I was completely shocked and in despair,” Gauthier told CTV.
“It is remotely just what they’re doing: exhausting us to the point of no return.”
“It was just getting too much and unbearable. And the person at VAC mentioned at that point, ‘Well, you know that we can assist you with assisted dying now if you’d like.’ And I was just shocked because I was like, ‘Are you serious?’ Like that easy, you’re going to be helping me to die but you won’t help me to live?” she added.
Canada offers disabled veteran “aid to die” when she asks for a stairlift pic.twitter.com/Xb1PYmSZ2w
— End Wokeness (@EndWokeness) December 4, 2022
CTV News reported:
Gauthier said the offer for MAID came during a phone call with a VAC case worker where she was describing her deteriorating condition. In 1989, Gauthier suffered permanent damage to her knees and spine after jumping in a deep hole while training on an obstacle course.
“It was just getting too much and unbearable. And the person at VAC mentioned at that point, ‘Well, you know that we can assist you with assisted dying now if you’d like.’ And I was just shocked because I was like, ‘Are you serious?’ Like that easy, you’re going to be helping me to die but you won’t help me to live?” she said.
Gauthier, who competed in the 2016 Paralympic Games and the 2016 Invictus Games as a para-canoeist, told the committee she sent letters detailing her experiences to Prime Minister Justin Trudeau and Veterans Affairs Minister Lawrence MacAulay. A spokesperson for MacAulay said Veterans Affairs is taking the issue “very seriously,” while adding that providing advice on MAID is “not a VAC service.”
“Our employees have no role or mandate to recommend or raise it. Considerations for MAID are the subject of discussions between a patient and their primary care providers to determine appropriateness in each individual context,” Erika Lashbrook Knutson, press secretary for MacAulay’s office, said in a statement to CTV News on Friday.
MacAulay’s office also told CTV News Veterans Affairs took actions to ensure this doesn’t happen again, such as issuing a directive ordering all employees to “not provide advice or suggestions to Veterans on the issue of MAID” and implementing mandatory training.
When asked about Gauthier’s experience being offered MAID, Trudeau called it “absolutely unacceptable.”
“We are following up with investigations, we are changing protocols to ensure what should seem obvious to all of us, that it is not the place of Veterans Affairs Canada … to offer them medical assistance in dying as a matter of course,” he told reporters in Vancouver on Friday.
“The issue of medical assistance in dying is a deeply personal one. It is a deeply difficult one for individuals and families to take on at an extraordinarily challenging moment in their lives. And something that we have to ensure is gotten right,” Trudeau added.
CTV News noted that MacAulay testified to a parliamentary committee that the department had found four instances of MAID being offered to veterans during an internal investigation.
“If any of the veterans in question are watching or listening right now, I am sorry. I am sorry you had to endure these appalling interactions and we are doing everything we can to ensure this never happens again,” MacAulay told the committee on Nov. 24.
“More Canadians are ending their lives with a medically-assisted death, says the third federal annual report on medical assistance in dying (MAID). Data shows that 10,064 people died in 2021 with medical aid, an increase of 32 percent over 2020,” according to CTV News.