A veteran and former Paralympian told a parliamentary committee she was offered medical assistance in dying (MAID) by a Veterans Affairs Canada (VAC) caseworker, a week after the minister of veterans affairs confirmed that at least one other four veterans were offered the same.
retired Cpl. Christine Gauthier, who has been trying to install a wheelchair ramp at her home for the past five years, testified Thursday that a caseworker told her they could give her assisted dying, even offering to supply her with MAID equipment.
“I was completely shocked and desperate,” she told CTV’s Power Play on Friday. “It’s remotely just what they’re doing: exhausting us to the point of no return.”
Gauthier said MAID’s offer came during a phone call with a VAC social worker describing her deteriorating state. In 1989, Gauthier suffered permanent knee and spinal damage after jumping into a deep hole while training for an obstacle course.
“It was getting too much and unbearable. And the VAC person mentioned at the time, ‘Well, you know we can help you with assisted dying now if you want.’ And she surprised me because she was like, ‘Are you serious?’ Just like that, you’re going to help me die but you’re not going to help me live?” she said.
Gauthier, who competed in the 2016 Paralympics and 2016 Invictus Games as a parapirater, told the committee that he sent letters detailing his experiences to Prime Minister Justin Trudeau and Veterans Affairs Minister Lawrence MacAulay. A MacAulay spokesperson said Veterans Affairs is taking the issue “very seriously,” adding that providing MAID counseling “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,” said Erika Lashbrook Knutson, press secretary for MAID. MacAulay’s office. in a statement to CTV News on Friday.
MacAulay’s office also told CTV News that Veterans Affairs took steps to ensure this does not happen again, including issuing a directive directing all employees “not to provide advice or suggestions to veterans on the subject of MAID” and implement mandatory training.
When asked about Gauthier’s experience being offered MAID, Trudeau called it “absolutely unacceptable.”
“We’re following up with the investigations, we’re changing the protocols to ensure what should seem obvious to all of us, which is not Veterans Affairs Canada’s place… to offer them medical assistance to die as a natural thing,” he said. reporters in Vancouver on Friday.
“The issue of medical aid in dying is deeply personal. It’s deeply difficult for individuals and families to take on at an extraordinarily challenging time in their lives. And it’s something we have to make sure it gets done right,” Trudeau added. .
OFFER AT LEAST FOUR MAID INSTANCES TO VETERANS: MINISTER
Last week, MacAulay testified before a parliamentary committee that the department had found four cases in which MAID was offered to veterans during an internal investigation that was prompted by a Global News report last summer.
“If any of the veterans in question are watching or listening at this time, I’m sorry. I’m sorry you’ve had to endure these terrible interactions and we’re doing everything we can to make sure this never happens again,” MacAulay told the committee in november. 24.
MacAulay said the four cases, which took place between 2019 and May 2022, were “all related to a single employee and it’s not a widespread or systemic problem”, adding that the RCMP was also contacted about possible charges.
“We expect all Veterans Affairs Canada employees to interact with veterans with care, compassion and respect, and this employee’s actions are simply disgusting,” he said.
MacAulay’s office said Gauthier’s experience being offered MAID was not one of four confirmed cases, but is under investigation.
“We encourage the person (or anyone who has experienced a similar situation) to contact Veterans Affairs Canada or the Office of the Veterans Ombudsman to help with the ongoing investigation,” Lashbrook Knutson said.
At last week’s committee meeting, MacAulay was asked by Conservative MP Blake Richards about a veteran who appeared on the Tango Romeo podcast about being offered MAID in November 2021. MacAulay told the committee that the story outlined in the podcast was not one of the four confirmed instances, suggesting that there may be more veterans who have been offered MAID.
“In that case, either something was overlooked in this investigation or there is another employee involved. And now it’s about determining which of those two things it is. In any case, that is concerning,” Richards said on November 24.
With files from Creeson Agecoutay of CTV News