Medical assistance in dying: the Department of Veterans Affairs faces another case

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Medical assistance in dying: the Department of Veterans Affairs faces another case

An internal investigation has revealed that a departmental employee allegedly improperly offered medical assistance in dying to at least four veterans.

Christine Gauthier (center), a veteran who suffered a serious spinal cord injury, including competing at the Invictus Games in Orlando, 2016, as a Paralympic athlete. (Archives)

Veterans Affairs Canada said Monday it could find nothing in its records to support claims made by veteran and former Paralympic athlete Christine Gauthier, who claimed last week that a department employee offered her the job. medical assistance in dying.

The department has been in the hot seat since an internal investigation revealed that one of its employees allegedly improperly informed up to four veterans of the possibility of ending their lives with the ;help from a doctor, as they sought help for treatment.

This is Veterans Affairs Minister Lawrence MacAulay , who confirmed the information to the Standing Committee on Veterans Affairs last month. The case has been handed over to the Royal Canadian Mounted Police for further investigation. The affected employee has been suspended.

On Monday, Deputy Minister Paul Ledwell told the committee that the department had reviewed more than 400,000 individual records as part of its internal investigation into allegations that veterans were offered — or coerced to accept – medical assistance in dying.

Christine Gauthier, a Canadian Army veteran who suffered a serious spinal cord injury, shocked MPs on the committee last week by saying the department had offered her the option of medical death. assisted.

There is no indication in the records, in any correspondence, in any notations, Mr. Ledwell told the committee. If the veteran has any material, any indication of that…. We'd be happy to see the material, review it.

Testifying primarily in French, Ms. Gauthier said she wrote to Prime Minister Justin Trudeau and Minister MacAulay to alert them to the event.

In a subsequent media interview, Christine Gauthier said medical assistance in dying was offered to her verbally during a conversation with a Veterans Affairs Canada employee in 2019. She says she noted it in her personal files. .

In an interview with CBC News on Monday, Ms. Gauthier was shocked in turn to hear the department's denial.

She provided a copy of a letter outlining her concerns, and added that she expected it to be on file with the department. Do I believe them when they say they have no evidence in their records? No, she said.

Last week, Christine Gauthier said she took note of how the department had only acknowledged four suspected cases where medical assistance in dying had been offered to veterans. Well, there are more than four, she said.

Minister of Veterans Affairs , Lawrence MacAulay

Lawrence MacAulay reiterated on Monday that his department was aware of only four cases. He urged other former service members who may have faced similar pressure – including Ms. Gauthier – to contact Veterans Affairs Canada directly to have their cases included in the ongoing investigation.

Christine Gauthier, who said she had been fighting for five years with the ministry to get a wheelchair ramp or lift, said she still had proof of sending letters.

When questioned by the committee, Minister MacAulay replied: I can only handle the facts that I have.

From his side, Tory MP and deputy chairman of the committee, Blake Richards, said he was aware of eight separate complaints from veterans. Some of these veterans, he said, are reluctant to trust the department because of the way they have been treated in the past.

D&#x27 ;after an article by Murray Brewster, CBC News

With information from CBC

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