A Paralympic Army Veteran Asked for a Wheelchair Lift. A Government Official Offered Euthanasia in Return.

Government policy under fire.

Canadian lawmakers were shocked to hear that a Paralympic military veteran had been offered euthanasia equipment when she requested a wheelchair lift be built in her home. Retired army corporal Christine Gauthier testified last week that a veterans affairs case worker had offered in writing to provide her with a device that would enable medically assisted death, the CBC reported.

"I have a letter saying that if you're so desperate, madam, we can offer you MAID, medical assistance in dying," Gauthier told lawmakers, the news outlet reported. Read on to find out more and the reaction from prime minister Justin Trudeau. 

1
Trudeau Responds

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Gauthier said she had written to Prime Minister Justin Trudeau to express her concern. Last week, Trudeau said the incident was "absolutely unacceptable," the CBC reported. "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," he said.

2
Expanded Policy Under Fire

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Medical assistance in dying has been legal in Canada since 2016 for those who are terminally ill. This year, it was expanded to people living with extreme disability or pain, even if their lives aren't at immediate risk. But the policy is controversial. Activists and some religious groups say it could be too easily abused, lacks oversight, and can devalue the lives of disabled people. 

3
Five Potential Cases

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As many as five veterans may have been offered euthanasia equipment by a veterans affairs official, said Veterans Minister Lawrence MacAulay in testimony before the committee last week. Those cases have been referred to police. MacAulay said all of the instances involved one employee, who has been suspended.

4
Apologies Offered

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Lawmakers apologised to Gauthier, a five-time world champion canoeist who competed in the most recent Invictus Games. She lost the use of her legs in an accident during military training in 1989. "I just want to extend my deepest apologies," New Democrat MP Rachel Blaney told Gauthier. "I just, I am in shock. And I thank you for bringing this reality [to the committee]."

5
Is This Sensitive Policy Under Control?

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Reporters asked Trudeau if his administration has a handle on medically assisted dying, which may expand to include those with mental illness next spring. The prime minister said the employees involved no longer have contact with veterans. "The issue of medical assistance in dying is a deeply personal, extraordinarily difficult choice that individuals and families need to make in the most thoughtful and best supported way possible," Trudeau said.

"We understand that making sure we are respecting people's rights and their choices, at the same time as we protect the most vulnerable, is a very important but challenging balance to establish," he added.

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