Protecting patients from euthanasia

The topic of  euthanasia known in Canada as medical assistance in dying should not be raised with patients by physicians or nurse practitioners. In doing so, health care professionals risk giving the impression to the patient that he/she thinks the patient would be better off dead. Persons made vulnerable by illness may be susceptible to suggestion. 

On November 26, 2020, the Canadian Press reported that “Disability Inclusion Minister Carla Qualtrough says health practitioners should not be allowed to discuss the issue of assisted dying until a patient asks about it – and she’s open to amending the law to make that clear.”   

The minister also expressed concerns for persons with disabilities.  She responded to a case raised by Senator Don Plett in which Roger Foley, 42 years of age in 2018 and living with cerebellar ataxia, was offered euthanasia (MAiD) when what he was seeking was assisted living services.

According to the Canadian Press, Minister Qualtrough said “she has grave concerns” about the manner in which Mr. Foley was treated:

“And I can tell you he’s not alone, she added. She said she ‘regularly’ hears from people who are ‘appalled’ to discover that a family member with a disability has been offered what she called ‘unprovoked MAiD’.”…But pushed by Plett to explain why the bill couldn’t be amended to specify that discussions on assisted dying must be ‘patient led’, Qualtrough said she personally ‘would certainly be open to considering that’.”

In a Macleans piece dated February 4, 2021, Gabrielle Peters writes:

“Dr. Corinna Iampen said she was surprised when the physician standing by her bedside asked if she wanted to speak to the MAID (medical assistance in dying) team as she recovered from a permanently disabling but non-life threatening injury.

Iampens voice cracks with emotion as she remembers the moment, “I was not expecting MAID to be raised with me. It wasn’t something I was thinking about.” Iampen says her interaction does not seem to have been an attempt to induce or coerce her into considering MAID, but rather a physician confused about what the legislation required her to do.”

Ms. Peters explains later: 

“Last November Iampen was at GF Strong Rehabilitation Centre in Vancouver while recovering from a spinal injury. She was just beginning the process of healing and adjusting to the idea of her life as a paraplegic after sustaining an injury around a month prior. She said she requested a DNR be put on her file in case anything further happened. (Iampen later changed her mind and had the DNR removed.)

While discussing this with her physician, who she describes as very pleasant, she was asked if this meant she would like to apply for MAiD. Iampen said the question shocked her since in her mind the two are very different things; a DNR means limiting the intervention her medical team uses if and when she is in danger of dying ( which she was not nor was it part of her prognosis) whereas MAiD would have doctors taking action to cause her death.”

…”Iampen supports the right of those who are dying to have the choice of MAiD, but the timing and context of it being suggested concerns her.”

Considering cases brought to light by media reports, there is much to be concerned about in Canada. Regrettably, Bill C-7 passed without any amendment barring health practitioners from initiating or raising the topic of euthanasia with patients. It would have been an important measure safeguarding the right to life for those most in need of protection.  Euthanasia (MAiD)  is not medical treatment.

 

 

 

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