Canadian Paralympian says she was offered medically assisted death after asking for wheelchair ramp

Canadian Paralympian says she was offered medically assisted death after asking for wheelchair ramp

A former Canadian Paralympian and retired veteran told the nation’s lawmakers last week that she was offered medically assisted death in response to protracted requests to have a wheelchair ramp built in her home.

Christine Gauthier told the House of Commons that she received a letter from a Veterans Affairs Canada (VAC) caseworker that they could also provide the equipment if she were interested, according to the Canadian Broadcasting Corporation.

“I have a letter saying that if you’re so desperate, madam, we can offer you MAID, medical assistance in dying,” Ms. Gauthier said in French during her testimony Thursday, per the CBC.

The ex-Paralympian, who competed for Canada as a power-lifter, indoor rower and canoeist in Rio in 2016, told the legislators that she had been seeking to have the wheelchair ramp installed for the past five years. She did not say when she received the letter, but agreed to provide a copy to lawmakers.

Ms. Gauthier said she was originally offered the option of medically assisted death in a phone conversation with a VAC employee in 2019, according to Global News. She wrote a letter to Prime Minister Justin Trudeau in July 2021 expressing her displeasure with the option.

“I have said repeatedly that this is absolutely unacceptable, and as soon as we heard about this we took action,” Mr. Trudeau said Friday during a press conference in Vancouver. The prime minister added that protocols when dealing with veterans have since been changed.

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The Veterans Affairs worker hasn’t been named, according to the Global News, but officials believe the same employee presented the option to three other people who reached out to the department with issues.

Ms. Gauthier injured her back in a training accident in 1989 while in the army. The injury left her wheelchair-bound and has made everyday tasks a challenge since then.

“It has isolated me greatly, because I have to crawl down my butt with the wheelchair in front of me to be able to access my house,” Ms. Gauthier told Global News.  

MAID was legalized in 2016 for Canadians with terminally ill conditions, according to the Daily Mail. 

Canada’s Centre for Addiction and Mental Health said that MAID is set to become legal for people suffering from mental illness in March 2023.