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Canadian doctor boasts of euthanising patients as concerns rise over Canada’s MAiD law

As concerns are arising over Canada’s assisted suicide law, a Canadian doctor has boasted about euthanising a patient who was considered incapable of making the decision to end their life.

Dying with Dignity Canada doctor, Ellen Wiebe, has reportedly euthanised more than 400 people and boasted during a seminar for physicians on assisted suicide, that she helped kill a man that, after being assessed for Medical Assistance In Dying (MAiD), was denied on the basis of being unable to make the decision himself. This man also did not have a serious illness, which thus made him ineligible for MAiD in Canada.

Wiebe had previously called euthanising her patients as ‘the most rewarding work we've ever done,' during a 2020 video event. According to her Dying with Dignity profile, she also provides medical and surgical abortions in Canada.

Canada made assisted suicide legal in 2016 for terminally ill patients, but in 2020, it became available to those with disabilities that were not terminal, but considered difficult to live with. Now, in March of this year, Canada will be expanding its provision of MAiD for people with mental illnesses.

In 2021, 10,064 people availed of MAiD, making up 3.3% of deaths in Canada. This is a 32% increase from 2020, which saw over 7,600 deaths due to assisted suicide.

Wiebe’s comments come amidst rising concerns over the upcoming expansion of the MAiD law, with further concerns that people are now seeking MAiD due to homelessness and poverty.  

One case is that of Rosina Kamis, who, although was suffering from a variety of non-terminal health problems, including chronic leukaemia, she reportedly sought assisted suicide after being faced with an eviction notice. She said she was afraid to “suffer alone” and of being institutionalised, thus felt assisted suicide 'the best solution for all.' 

'Please keep all this secret while I am still alive because… the suffering I experience is mental suffering, not physical,' she wrote. 

Her assisted suicide was approved, and on 26th September 2021, she died at the age of 41 by a lethal injection from her doctor

Les Landry, 65, is also currently seeking assisted suicide out of fear of not being able to live comfortably, despite saying that he does not want to die. “I really don’t want to die. I just can’t afford to live,” he told The New Atlantic.

Landry uses a wheelchair and suffers with several other health problems including epilepsy and diabetes, making him eligible for MAiD. However, due to recent changes to his state benefit, which reduces his income to $120 a month, Landry is on the brink of homelessness.

'I don't want to go homeless,' he told to the Daily Mail. 'I don't want to end up living in a van so I can't make the van payments. I don't want to end up homeless. Who would want to be homeless at 16, never mind 65?' 

Landry has already received a signature from one doctor and is waiting to get a signature from the second. He has said that if he is denied the second signature, he will shop around until he gets it.

Althea Gibb-Carsley, a retired care coordinator and social worker for the Vancouver Coastal Health’s assisted dying program, gave a presentation in 2021 on MAiD, where she highlighted a variety of cases like those of Kamis and Landry, particularly referring to people with medical problems, who did not want to die, but felt they had no choice due to poverty, housing problems, or inability to afford medical bills.  

When asked to comment on her presentation, Gibb-Carsley told The New Atlantic: “The people I was aware of whose decisions to apply for MAID were influenced by their poverty, and a long-lived experience of lack of access to respectful and appropriate resources, also had medical diagnoses that meant they met the legal criteria for assisted death in Canada. Poverty and lack of resource[s] was not the reason they were found eligible for MAID.”

However, commenting on these types of cases, Wiebe said 'It is rare for assessors to have patients who have unmet needs, but it does happen. Usually, these unmet needs are around loneliness and poverty.”

'As all Canadians have rights to an assisted death, people who are lonely or poor also have those rights,' she added. 

Wiebe’s colleague, Stephanie Green, who reportedly euthanised 300 people and referred to euthanasia as “deliveries”, likening it to “delivering” a new born baby, called these cases “clickbait”.

'You cannot access MAID in this country because you can't get housing,' she said. 'That is clickbait. These stories have not been reported fully.' 

However, in addition to the cases mentioned above, Gript recently reported on the CEO, Meghan Nicholls, of a foodbank in Mississauga, Canada, who expressed concern over the increasing number of people availing of their services, asking about assisted suicide.

Nicholls called the situation “unacceptable”, and said that social assistance rates “must meet the current cost of living and increase alongside inflation”, adding that “everyone deserves a life that is liveable”. 

Other Canadians have slammed the assisted suicide law, including Paralympian and retired army corporal, Christine Gauthier, who was offered assisted suicide by her Veterans Affairs Canada (VAC) caseworker.

In 1989, Gauthier was in an army training accident, which left permanent damage to her spine and knees. Having to use a wheelchair, Gauthier had been trying to get a chairlift for her home since 2017. After getting frustrated at the delays, her VAC caseworker offered her MAiD instead.

'Madam, if you are really so desperate, we can give you medical assistance in dying now,' her caseworker has said.

'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. 'It was really shocking to hear that kind of comment.' 

The Daily Mail reports that it is feared that three more veterans were offered the same “solution” when contacting caseworkers with their problems.

A similar case is that of Roger Foley who has been pressured by his doctors into assisted suicide, despite his repeated request of assisted living.

Speaking on Gauthier’s case, Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau has called this 'absolutely unacceptable' and has vowed to make changes after public outcry.

Ahead of the 2019 elections, Trudeau had promised to expand the assisted suicide law, but also promised that appropriate palliative support would be available.

"The essential element around society is ensuring that everyone gets the supports, the treatment they need to live in dignity, and to make the choice of medical assistance in dying one that is made in a way that isn't because you're not getting the supports and cares that you actually need,” he said.

However, the High Court in the Fleming case ruled that it would be impossible to put in safeguards to ensure that vulnerable people are not pressured into availing of assisted suicide if they do not want to. This is reflected in the cases that are coming to light in Canada.

Although people call for safeguards to be put in place when making assisted suicide available, it seems clear from the evidence that it does very little to actually protect vulnerable people from availing of assisted suicide. In fact, consistently in US states Oregon and Washington, over 50% of people list fear of being a burden as a reason for opting for assisted suicide.

As assisted suicide becomes more accepted in society, the same trend emerges; that rates of people availing of assisted suicide are increasing, with vulnerable people being denied basic care, to the point of feeling they should avail of assisted suicide - with some being offered without prior request or interest. Legalising assisted suicide becomes a slippery slope where we begin to devalue those that are not considered perfect; the disabled, the sick, and the poor, and instead of offering them the help they need, we leave them with only two options: to end their lives or suffer alone. It’s not surprising that people who are at their most vulnerable are turning to assisted suicide at a time of desperation, when they would otherwise rather have assisted living. 

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