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Canadian man alleges hospital is pressuring him to end his life by assisted suicide

A Canadian man with a disability affecting his brain and muscles is suing the hospital treating him, alleging that healthcare workers at the facility have been pressuring him to end his life by assisted suicide.

Roger Foley, who is currently being cared for at Victoria Hospital in London, Ontario, Canada, and suffers from cerebellar ataxia, a disease that attacks the brain and muscles, has been bed-ridden at the hospital for six years. His health insurance covers “basic medical and emergency services”, he said.

However, Mr Foley requires further care due to the severity of his condition. In 2018, he secretly recorded hospital staff encouraging him to choose assisted suicide. After telling the member of staff that he would be fine if he just had funding, the staff member said “But if you weren’t, you, just, you can just apply to get an assisted, if you want to end your life, like you know what I mean. You don’t have to do it in some dramatic manner, you can apply for assisted, you know…”.

“I’ve been pressured to do an assisted suicide”.

Mr Foley has been clear that he does not want to die. He told the New York Post “I’ve been pressured to do an assisted suicide”. He alleges that this happened at Victoria Hospital, a government-funded centre in London, Ontario.

“They asked if I want an assisted death. I don’t. I was told that I would be charged $1,800 per day [for hospital care]. I have $2 million worth of bills. Nurses here told me that I should end my life. That shocked me”.

Mr Foley has applied for “direct funding” from the Canadian government to “employ agency workers of his own choosing and manage his schedule”.

“There is pressure on [disabled] people who should be treated equally and celebrated for their strength and diversity and difference”, he added.

“Society deems us better off dead. We have to justify being alive and [to pro-euthanasia contingents] our lives don’t matter”.

The lawsuit says “Mr Foley was told by hospital staff that he had stayed at the hospital for too long and if he did not receive self-directed funding [from local agencies, covering home care], he should apply for assisted death as an option”.

It accuses the hospital of “sending a collection agency after [Foley] to pressure him into a medically assisted death”, adding that “defendants have violated [Foley’s] rights and freedom”.

Professional obligation to bring up euthanasia?

A spokesperson for the hospital told The New York Post “We are unable to provide a comment specific to a patient in order to ensure privacy and confidentiality … As per Canadian law, our healthcare teams are prepared to have conversations regarding Medically [sic] Assisted in Dying with patients who verbally express an interest in exploring this option … If the patient does not verbally express an interest or changes their mind, our healthcare team will not engage in these conversations”.

However, a pro-assisted suicide and euthanasia group of doctors in Canada have recently said that doctors have a “professional obligation” to initiate discussion of assisted suicide and euthanasia with patients who might fit the legal criteria. They claim there is nothing in Canadian law which forbids this.

Director of the Canadian Institute for Inclusion and Citizenship at the University of British Columbia, Tim Stainton, described the law as “probably the biggest existential threat to disabled people since the Nazis’ program in Germany in the 1930s”.

Marie-Claude Landry, head of Canada’s Human Rights Commission, has stated that euthanasia “cannot be a default for Canada’s failure to fulfill its human rights obligation”.

One in five cite loneliness as a reason to want to die

In 2021, 10,064 people ended their lives by assisted suicide and euthanasia, an increase of over 32% from the previous year, accounting for 3.3% of all deaths in Canada.

According to the latest report on Medical Assistance in Dying from Health Canada, 17.3% of people also cited “isolation or loneliness” as a reason for wanting to die. In 35.7% of cases, patients believed that they were a “burden on family, friends or caregivers”.

Right To Life UK spokesperson Catherine Robinson said “Whatever the intentions of those pushing for assisted suicide and euthanasia, this is the next logical step. The rationale for the legislation depends on the judgement that some kinds of life are not worth living and, sadly, it seems that Mr Foley’s life has been judged as such.

“As horrible as it is, is anyone surprised that the hospital and / or the state might want to encourage people to end their lives as a way to save money? The Office of the Parliamentary Budget Officer has already calculated the potential savings from the uptake of assisted suicide and euthanasia, as opposed to the healthcare costs that patients would otherwise incur. But the pressure on the sick and vulnerable to end their lives is one of the consequences of legalising assisted suicide and euthanasia, as Canada has done. Hopefully, other countries will learn from their error”.

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