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Veteran Says He Was Offered 'Assistance' To Die After Trying To Seek Treatment For PTSD

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A photograph of a woman crying against a background of Canadian army uniforms.

In 2016, Canada approved a bill that would legalize a procedure known as medical assistance in dying, often known as “MAID”, to those with terminal illnesses. The process is meant to provide a choice and a sense of dignity to patients approaching the inevitable end.

In 2021 the law was altered to include those with serious and chronic physical conditions, even if they were not life-threatening, and in 2024, it plans to widen the scope again to include those with mental illnesses.

However, Canada has come under fire from many who believe that MAID has become a solution that authorities are too quick to offer, even when it isn’t even legal.

A veteran who was seeking treatment for PTSD claims he was offered euthanasia by someone who wasn’t even his doctor.

Last year, a veteran who has chosen to keep his identity secret, found himself in a shocking situation.

He was speaking to a member of Veterans Affairs Canada, an organization dedicated to helping veterans receive the support and treatment they need. Like many, he was searching for support regarding PTSD and a traumatic brain injury.

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Per Global News, according to family and friends, this veteran had been “experiencing positive improvements” in his health and was seeking more services to support his continued recovery. He had no interest in dying, but to one employee, that didn’t matter.

In the conversation, the VAC member he was speaking with “unexpectedly and casually” offered medically assisted suicide to him, even though he was recovering well.

In addition, the conversation for MAID legally must be carried out between a patient and a healthcare provider, not a member of the VAC (Veterans Affairs Canada). The VAC is not a hospital, and its members are not doctors or physicians. It is not legally allowed to discuss or offer this treatment to its clients, and also has no ability to carry such offers out.

The veteran and his family were shocked and heartbroken.

To him, it seemed that his recovery and will to live was somehow not enough, and the people who were meant to support him would rather let him die. It was a serious blow to his health and recovery, and one that upset his loved ones.

According to Global News, it even took multiple reports of the incident for the VAC to respond, and when they did apologize for it, there was no indication of what action would be taken to prevent such offers in the future.

Many are frustrated with the VAC and with Canada’s support systems in general. This veteran’s story, although infuriating, is not the only story of its kind.

In late 2022, retired corporal and Paralympian Christine Gauthier was offered MAID in writing in response to her request for a stairlift in her home. Rather than spend the time or money to help the leader and athlete make her home more accessible, again, the VAC chose to offer her death.

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Although the process of MAID must be chosen by the patient, it seems that not everyone believes that death is a last resort.

According to Canada’s 2021 report on MAID, only 2.2% of patients assisted in death were ones whose natural death was not reasonably foreseeable, a statistic translating to 219 individuals. Although this is a relatively low percentage, it is still raising criticisms and concerns.

Citizens of Canada are pushing the VAC to take responsibility for their employees' training, and also criticizing the nation for its failure to support veterans.

If it takes five years and an offer of euthanasia for a Paralympian to get a simple stair lift in her home, what does that mean for other veterans, or less recognized individuals living with disabilities, or underlying conditions? Just because only 219 individuals not at risk of death chose MAID in 2021 doesn’t mean that they were the only ones offered it.

The shocking stories reveal dark truths about the way veterans are treated, and it is clear that something must change for the VAC.

Canada’s federal government has delayed the expansion of MAID to cover mental health issues until March of 2024 so that better practices and training can be put in place to support patients and doctors.

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Hawthorn Martin is a news and entertainment writer living in Texas. They focus on social justice, pop culture, and human interest stories.