A disabled veteran requested a wheelchair ramp for her home, and someone in Canada’s Veterans Affairs department reportedly responded to her request by offering to send her a kit that would help her to end her own life.
Christine Gauthier, a 52-year-old retired corporal who is paraplegic, testified before Parliament last week, and she told the House of Commons veterans affairs committee that a caseworker had offered in writing to send her a Medical Assistance In Dying (MAID) kit.
Gauthier, who participated in 2016’s Invictus Games (started by Britain’s ex-pat Prince Harry) as well as the 2016 Paralympic Games in Rio de Janeiro, said that it had all started when she made a request five years earlier to have a wheelchair ramp installed at her home.
“With respect to me, I have a letter in my file, because I had to face that as well,” Gauthier said. “I have a letter saying that if you’re so desperate, madam, we can offer you MAID, medical assistance in dying.”
The paralympian, who first injured her back in 1989 during a training exercise, said that she was so concerned about the response that she sent a letter to Prime Minister Justin Trudeau: “I sent a letter to Prime Minister Trudeau and that they [Veterans Affairs] offered me MAID and would supply equipment.”
Trudeau called the alleged response “absolutely unacceptable” and added, “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, who are supposed to be there to support those people who stepped up to serve their country, to offer them medical assistance in dying.”
According to multiple reports, Gauthier was not the only veteran to receive such a response from Veterans Affairs Canada. In fact, Veterans Minister Lawrence MacAulay said that one such report a year ago had prompted a lengthy investigation — and at least four veterans said someone from the VA had offered them MAID. All four cases, MacAulay said, were tied to the same employee.
“We expect all Veterans Affairs candidate employees to interact with veterans with care, compassion and respect and the actions of this one employee is simply disgusting. And I condemn this behavior in the strongest terms,” MacAulay said, adding, “We remain confident that this is all related to one single employee, and it’s not a widespread or a systemic issue.”