Canada Lawrence MacAulay urges veterans offered MAID to come forward, but is told 'no one' trusts him
Canada should pause MAID for people with mental disorders: psychiatrists
Canada is not ready to expand medical assistance in dying for people with a mental disorder, leaving psychiatrists across the country "incredibly concerned" about patients needing better access to care, including for addiction services, says a group representing the specialists across the country. The Association of Chairs of Psychiatry in Canada, which includes heads of psychiatry departments at all 17 medical schools, issued a statement Thursday calling for a pause to the change set to be implemented in mid-March.
OTTAWA — Veterans Affairs Minister Lawrence MacAulay is urging any former members of the military who were offered medical assistance in dying inappropriately by a caseworker to come forward to the department or the veterans ombudsman.
“We want to make sure that we get to the bottom of this issue, and I would ask anybody at the committee, any veteran, anybody that’s listening to please bring any information they have forward. We need to know the facts,” MacAulay told a parliamentary committee on Monday.
“We want to make sure that we get this situation rectified as quickly as possible.”
Trudeau says assisted dying offers to veterans ‘unacceptable’ as cases mount
Trudeau spoke a day after a paraplegic veteran of the Canadian Armed Forces shocked lawmakers by revealing she had been offered medically-assisted death by a VAC employee. Prime Minister Justin Trudeau says his government is working to ensure Veterans Affairs Canada (VAC) never again offers medical assistance in dying (MAiD) to veterans, as another veteran says a similar experience happened to her as well.
Veterans Affairs launched an investigation after an internal review of more than 400,000 files revealed that one department caseworker had suggested four veterans consider assisted suicide. The information has since been referred to the RCMP.
But Conservative MP Blake Richards argued there might be many more. He said he was aware of at least eight veterans who were offered MAID by at least three other caseworkers.
One of them is Christine Gauthier, a veteran and former paralympic athlete, who told the committee last week that the Department of Veterans Affairs offered her help to end her life and that she reported the conversation to Prime Minister Justin Trudeau and MacAulay in 2021.
MacAulay said he was never made aware of any correspondence in reference to MAID with respect to Gauthier, information that was also confirmed by his deputy minister, Paul Ledwell.
Veterans' cases raise fresh concerns about expanding assisted dying law
OTTAWA — Revelations that some Canadian veterans have been offered assisted deaths while seeking help from the federal government are adding to concerns about Ottawa’s plans to expand such procedures to include mental-health injuries and illnesses. While medical assistance in dying was approved in 2016 for Canadians suffering from physical injuries and illness, the criteria is set to expand in March to include those living with mental-health conditions. That plan has already sparked concerns from psychiatrists across the country, who have warned that Canada is not ready for such a move.
“There’s no indication in the files, in any correspondence, in any notation based on engagement with a veteran of reference to MAID. If the veteran has material, an indication of that, we (…) would welcome seeing that, reviewing that and making that part of our investigation,” he said.
Speaking, Gauthier, who has been struggling to obtain a wheelchair ramp at home for five years now, said that she was offered medical assistance in dying at least twice when she shared with Veterans Affairs how exhausted she was about her quality of life.
Her reaction was immediate when offered MAID. “I said, ‘Are you serious? You’re not giving me the tools to live, but you would give me an injection to die?’”
She suggested the offer had been made by two different caseworkers — one male and one female — although she said she would have to look up her notes to be sure. But the revelation was enough to add fuel to make the Conservatives point fingers at the minister.
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“I think it’s fairly clear to see why veterans failed to have trust in and confidence in you and your department,” said Richards.
Speaking last week, Trudeau said that veterans being offered MAID was “absolutely unacceptable” and that his government had taken action as soon as it heard about these cases.
“We are changing protocols to ensure what should seem obvious to all of us: that it is not the place of Veterans Affairs Canada, who are there to support those people who stepped up to serve their country, to offer them medical assistance in dying as a matter of course,” he said.
MacAulay argued that his department, the ombudsman or the RCMP can only deal with facts that they are aware of — and made it abundantly clear that veterans will have to take it upon themselves to share proof of when and how they were offered to end their life.
NDP MP Rachel Blaney asked if there was any consideration given by Veterans Affairs to record conversations, since it might be hard to give proof when there are no written records.
“It seems to me that we’re getting into a position where it becomes very much, ‘he said, she said’, and veterans deserve better. They served our country,” she said. “I don’t think any veteran in this country wants to feel like they haven’t told the truth.”
MacAulay said that there were some privacy considerations with this practice, but Blaney insisted that other departments keep some records of conversations.
Conservative MP Fraser Tolmie said that if veterans are not coming forward, it’s because the trust has been broken with the minister and his department.
“We should not be doing the investigation for you. And that’s where the breakdown of trust has come: Mr. Minister, no one trusts you. They’re not coming forward to you because they don’t trust this department. And this lies squarely on you, sir.”
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