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Canadian veteran offered assisted suicide after asking for wheelchair help

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Christine Gauthier spoke before she competed in the 2016 Paralympic Games in Para canoe. / YouTube Screenshot 2016 video

Boston, Mass., Dec 5, 2022 / 14:30 pm (CNA).

A former Paralympian who served in the Canadian military contacted Veterans Affairs Canada (VAC) in 2019 to ask for a home wheelchair lift to help her maneuver her home more easily. 

Christine Gauthier testified before Canada’s House of Commons veterans committee last week that she was shocked when the VAC employee offered her assisted suicide as a solution to her suffering.

Gauthier told the MPs that she has fought for wheelchair accommodation for five years, according to cbc.ca

“I have a letter saying that if you’re so desperate, madam, we can offer you MAID, medical assistance in dying,” Gauthier said, according to the outlet. She agreed to provide a copy of the letter to the MPs, the outlet reported.

“I was like, ‘I can’t believe that you will … give me an injection to help me die, but you will not give me the tools I need to help me live,’” Gauthier said in a Dec. 2 interview with Global News.

“It was really shocking to hear that kind of comment.”

Gauthier served in the heavy artillery section of the Canadian Army and was severely injured in a training accident in 1995, according to canoeicf.com. Her back, knees, and hips took heavy damage after a jump into a trench, and she underwent a series of surgeries, but to no avail. She has competed in several paralympic sports including para ice hockey, para nordic skiing, and para canoe sprinting. 

A portion of Gauthier’s interview can be seen below.

Gauthier said that she wrote a letter to Prime Minister Justin Trudeau with concerns about the unnamed employee’s offer of assisted suicide. 

The July 9, 2021, letter from the retired corporal said that “if you do not want to allow me to live with autonomy and dignity, put an end to my suffering and my days but unfortunately, you will need to do it, as my convictions and my faith prevent me from doing so,” according to Global News.

Trudeau told reporters on Friday that the VAC employee’s comments were “absolutely unacceptable,” according to Global News.

“I have said repeatedly that this is absolutely unacceptable, and as soon as we heard about this we took action,” he said.

“We are following up with investigations and we are changing protocols to ensure what should seem obvious to all of us: that it is not the place of Veterans Affairs Canada (VAC), who are there to support those people who stepped up to serve their country, to offer them medical assistance in dying,” Trudeau added.

Lawrence MacAulay, minister of VAC, said before the same committee last week that four or five instances of veterans being offered assisted suicide as an option have occurred, cbc.ca reported. A VAC agent has been suspended in connection with those reports, cbc.ca reported. 

It’s unclear whether the suspended agent was the same agent that Gauthier dealt with. MacAulay called on veterans who have experienced similar treatment to report it, the outlet reported.

Assisted suicide in Canada was federally legalized in 2016, according to the government’s annual report on the program. In 2021, 10,064 people died as a result, which accounted for more than 3% of deaths in the North American country. 

Each year since its legalization, every Canadian province has seen a rise in assisted suicide, which is euphemistically coined “Medical Assistance in Dying.”

Since its legalization, almost 32,000 deaths have occurred through assisted suicide.

For those receiving assistance in suicide in 2021, 65.6% cited cancer as an underlying medical condition. Almost 19% cited cardiovascular conditions, with 12.4% citing chronic respiratory conditions. Over 12% cited neurological conditions. According to the report, 75% of the recipients cited one main underlying medical condition. The rest cited two or more. 

In a Saturday column for the New York Times, Ross Douthat criticized Canada’s assisted suicide policy.

“It is not barbaric for the law to acknowledge hard choices in end-of-life care, about when to withdraw life support or how aggressively to manage agonizing pain,” he wrote.

“It is barbaric, however, to establish a bureaucratic system that offers death as a reliable treatment for suffering and enlists the healing profession in delivering this ‘cure.’ And while there may be worse evils ahead, this isn’t a slippery slope argument: When 10,000 people are availing themselves of your euthanasia system every year, you have already entered the dystopia,” he wrote.


Source: https://www.catholicnewsagency.com/news/252991/canadian-veteran-offered-assisted-suicide-when-all-she-asked-for-was-wheelchair-help


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