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Canadian paralympian asks for stairlift, gets offered euthanasia instead

A Canadian army veteran who competed in the Paralympics in 2016 has told a Government committee that she was offered euthanasia when she asked for a stairlift to be installed in her home.

The retired corporal, Christine Gauthier, who competed in the 2016 Rio de Janeiro Paralympics, testified before a Canadian House of Commons Veterans Affairs Committee at the beginning of December, that an unnamed veterans affairs case worker had said, in writing, that Ms Gauthier could be provided with a euthanasia device when all she had wanted was a stairlift to be installed in her home. 

Ms Gauthier, 52, said “I have a letter saying that if you’re so desperate, madam, we can offer you MAID, medical assistance in dying”.

Veterans Minister, Lawrence MacAulay, said there have been five instances of veterans being offered euthanasia equipment by a veterans affairs official.

There have been a number of cases of veterans being offered euthanasia

The Prime Minister, Justin Trudeau, a firm supporter of Canada’s euthanasia and assisted suicide legislation, said that the incident was “absolutely unacceptable”.

Trudeau said “We are following up with investigations and we are changing protocols to ensure what should seem obvious to all of us: that it is not the place of Veterans Affairs Canada (VAC), who are supposed to be there to support those people who stepped up to serve their country, to offer them [euthanasia]”.

Mr MacAulay testified before the same committee saying there had been a number of other instances of veterans being offered euthanasia who did not request it. All the cases of people being offered euthanasia by the VAC, a Government agency, are thought to have involved a single employee who has since been suspended.

Veterans Affairs Canada is a Government department responsible for pensions, benefits and services for war veterans.

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 in Canada, 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”.

Canada is set to permit euthanasia for children as young as 12 from next year and on the grounds of mental illness despite protests from human rights experts.

Right To Life UK spokesperson Catherine Robinson said “Prime Minister Trudeau may feign horror at this incident, but this is exactly the sort of thing that happens when assisted suicide and euthanasia are made legal and normalised”.

“This story illustrates one of the many enduring difficulties with euthanasia and assisted suicide legislation – the subtle, and sometimes not so subtle, pressure that it places on people with disabilities or who are otherwise vulnerable to end their own lives”.

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MPs will shortly vote on proposed changes to the law, brought forward by Labour MPs Stella Creasy and Diana Johnson, that would introduce the biggest change to our abortion laws since the Abortion Act was introduced in 1967.

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Polling undertaken by ComRes, shows that only 1% of women support introducing abortion up to birth and that 91% of women agree that sex-selective abortion should be explicitly banned by the law.

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