The brutal and lonely death of Manuela Valente

On October 17, 2023, Manuela Valente committed suicide at the age of 82. I quote the obituary written by his family: Manuela chose to put an end to the unbearable pain that her blindness had become. For a woman who so prized the beauty of everything around her – people, fauna, flora, art – and who read like one breathes, life had lost all meaning.




Deprived of her vision by glaucoma, a disease of the optic nerve, Manuela Valente did not suffer from any other illness. She was not taking any medication. Without this glaucoma, she would have been absolutely healthy.

But losing vision in one eye in 2016, then in the other in 2023, seriously affected his quality of life. Walking alone became an obstacle course. Even with technological aids, reading became more and more difficult. And at family dinners, Manuela Valente became – according to her – a burden.

Add to this that the old lady had been suffering from increasing deafness – almost complete – for a decade.

A great reader, Manuela Valente has also always written. She noted her joys, her sorrows, her impressions, her fears. After his death, his daughters discovered pages and pages of reflections.

On May 2, 2019, Mme Valente wrote: I knewhas become the piece of the family puzzle that can no longer fit perfectly into the “landscape”, my “edges” no longer adjusting to those of the other pieces. There is always too much space between us…

Then, in September of the same year: The only autonomy I have left is inside my apartment, where I manage quite well, even in the kitchen… All the while screaming with rage when everything constantly falls from my hands. I can’t see all the black spots on the potatoes I peel.

In the same text from 2019: The people I meet in the residence are all strangers, since I cannot distinguish their features. I feel like a ghost among other ghosts.

Manuela Valente’s prose documented with despair and lucidity her slow confinement over the years.

On May 26, 2023, she wrote: I feel like I’m stuck between two boards that are getting closer and closer and that will eventually crush me, depriving me of the little vision I have left. I will soon be 82 years old. The future I foresee is bleak, literally and practically. I am told that even at this age, many people learn Braille. They are brave, no doubt, but I will not be one of them. When I no longer have the slightest bit of autonomy that I have left, my life will have ended.

Five months after writing these words, Manuela Valente killed herself in a brutal and solitary manner by throwing herself from the top of the balcony, at 6e floor of her apartment in Jardins Industriels, the RPA where she lived in Saint-Lambert.

In January 2022, Manuela Valente summoned her three daughters – Paula, Alexandra and Filipa – to announce to them that she was approaching the point of no return: “The day I can no longer be independent, and read, I will end in my days. »

PHOTO PROVIDED BY THE FAMILY

Manuela Valente, with her daughter Alexandra Mendès and her granddaughter Joana Mendès-Novo

It was Alexandra Mendès, one of Manuela Valente’s daughters, who asked me to tell her mother’s story. Mme Mendès is the federal MP for Brossard–Saint-Lambert.

What pushed Mme Mendes to contact me? Start a discussion on access to medical assistance in dying for people like his mother, people who are well but irreparably weighed down by debilitating illnesses, such as progressive blindness.

According to Alexandra Mendès, her mother was refused MAID: “Her doctor told her that she was not eligible for it. »

Hence this announcement made by Mme Valente to her daughters, in January 2022, the one where she announced to them that one day, she would take the means herself to escape her confinement.

PHOTO PROVIDED BY THE FAMILY

Manuela Valente, 70, in October 2013, at the wedding of one of her nieces

I return to the words written by Manuela Valente on May 26, five months before her suicide. They seem to support the thesis of a refusal of MAID: Why don’t they give me the right to end my life surrounded by my family by offering my organs for transplants? Why does a choice made by a person with all his mental faculties not have the same value as a choice determined by a fatal illness? For me, my future blindness is tantamount to a fatal disease. Who, if not me, can decide on the minimum conditions for an acceptable life? Who can force me to live?

So to “prove” that Manuela Valente was told by her doctor that her situation was not sufficient to have access to MAID, there are two “proofs”.

One, the words written by the old lady herself: Why don’t they give me the right to end my life surrounded by my family.

Two, what Mme Valente told his daughters. I quote Alexandra Mendès: “The doctor told her that she did not meet the criteria. That’s all I know about it. I know, with unwavering certainty, that if she had any hope of having medical assistance in dying, she would have chosen it. »

So I started exploring the story of Mme Valente with this a priori: here is a woman who was refused medical assistance in dying because she was not “seriously” ill enough. And this woman therefore decided to end her life herself, in a brutal and solitary manner, to escape her confinement.

Except that…

“100% eligible”

PHOTO PROVIDED BY THE FAMILY

Manuela Valente

Except that upon checking, it is far from clear that Manuela Valente was ineligible for medical assistance in dying. I consulted two doctors who have extensive knowledge of end-of-life care that is MAiD, explaining to them the details of M’s condition.me Valente and both were surprised, during separate interviews: this patient, according to them, met all the criteria to receive MAID.

I quote the Dr Georges L’Espérance, a retired neurosurgeon who has provided MAID dozens of times to Quebec patients for years: “This lady was 100% eligible. »

The doctor cites the serious and incurable nature of glaucoma, without treatment to compensate or attenuate it; the advanced and irreversible decline as well as the “obvious psychological and existential suffering” experienced by Manuel Valente.

By redacting personal information, the Dr L’Espérance also presented me with the file of a former patient whose situation was very similar to that of M.me Valente: he received MAID due to torments linked to blindness under a request made in the summer of 2023.

And the other doctor I consulted – who also provides MAID – sent me a document created by the Commission on End-of-Life Care of Quebec in September 2023. From the 16,000 cases listed of MAID in Quebec, the Commission created 29 standard cases of people who received MAID. However, the case no 28 mentions the torments linked to blindness, macular degeneration and retinal detachment as conditions of eligibility for MAID1.

Observation: it is, to say the least, unusual that Mme Valente was told she was not eligible for medical assistance in dying.

I contacted the Dr Serge Boudreau, doctor of Manuela Valente. He told me that he was bound by professional secrecy, even if the person died: “On the subject of medical assistance in dying, I stick to the law and make the reference when a subject is eligible. . There are therefore conditions that are not admissible for MAID. »

The notion of confidentiality of medical records, even post-mortem, is understandable. But what was said between Manuela Valente and this family doctor about MAID is perhaps a line of investigation for Me Nathalie Lefebvre, the coroner investigating the suicide of Mme Valente.

What did the doctor tell his patient Manuela Valente about her eligibility for MAID? Did he wrongly tell her that her blindness was not a factor that could allow her to have MAID? If so, what was his reasoning? Was he aware of the entire spectrum of analysis criteria for a person requesting MAID?

This confusion among certain doctors is documented and was the subject of a recent report in The Press2, under the pen of Marie-Claude Malboeuf. The idea here is not to throw stones at M’s doctor.me Valente. But there is this reality: in ten years, the conditions for admission to MAID have changed considerably, from legislative texts to court decisions which have modified the laws. A doctor in good faith may have lost the thread.

The result, in the case of Manuela Valente, is obvious: believing that she was not entitled to medical assistance in dying, surrounded by her loved ones, she threw herself from the top of a balcony to put an end to his sufferings and escape his confinement.

I presented the conclusion of my research to Alexandra Mendès. I told him that in all likelihood, his mother could have received medical assistance in dying, according to two doctors who regularly practice MAiD care and according to the typical cases listed by the Quebec End-of-Life Care Commission. .

PHOTO SEAN KILPATRICK, LA PRESSE ARCHIVES

Alexandra Mendès, one of Manuela Valente’s daughters, is federal deputy for Brossard–Saint-Lambert.

Reaction from Manuela Valente’s daughter: “It saddens me to learn that mom could have died surrounded by our love rather than believing that her only option was so brutal. »

Rather than die surrounded by her family who adored her, Manuela Valente killed herself in the night, alone, desperate and undoubtedly terrified – a final gesture to escape this confinement which was unbearable for her.

The exact opposite of a death with dignity provided by AMM.

Need help for you or a loved one?

Quebec suicide prevention line: 1 866 APPELLE (277-3553)


reference: www.lapresse.ca

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