Husband says Canadian hospital pressured him to let them euthanize his wife

euthanized, disability, assisted suicide, Canada

A man from Vancouver in Canada  is speaking out after he says that hospital staff pressured him to allow them to euthanize his wife.

Richard Leskun said his wife, Marilynn, was admitted to Abbotsford Regional Hospital after falling from her wheelchair. In an interview with The B.C. Catholic, Richard said that as he cared for Marilynn in the hospital, he was repeatedly “pressured” and “badgered” into first allowing her to die, and then, to consent to her euthanasia.

Initially, Richard was asked by hospital staff if they could place a do-not-resuscitate (DNR) designation on his wife five times within eight days. Despite the hospital’s insistence, Richard refused, citing his Catholic faith and his pro-life views.

“At that meeting, I was very clear: I’m a Catholic and I’m absolutely against medically assisted dying,” he recalled saying. “I’m against euthanasia. I want my wife to live. I want her to continue living. We’ve had a good life for 10 years, even though she has dementia. I was very clear.”

Later, as Marilynn’s condition deteriorated, he was asked if he would consent to her euthanasia.

“The hospitalist is the one who came to me, quite late in the evening, on the night before she died,” Richard said. “I was absolutely worn, frazzled, completely worn out. I was there every day, almost 24/7, and he said to me, ‘You know, I have written orders for medically assisted dying.’ I was probably too tired to jump down his throat or whatever. I said no, for sure. I was too tired to feel anything. But I was saying no, absolutely not.”

As it became clear that Marilynn was dying, Richard told the hospital he would consent to a do-not-resuscitate (DNR) order. To his surprise, he found one had already been designated without his approval.

“The nurse said to me, and this shocked me, the nurse said, ‘Oh, it’s OK, the doctor has already put a DNR on,’” he said. “And this was done without my approval. I never gave consent until that moment. [But] she said, ‘It’s already on there. It’s already on the chart.’”

Marilynn died shortly after. Though Richard said that he didn’t launch an official complaint, he now wants to warn others in Canada who may encounter a similar situation.

“Now that the health system offers both death and life, you must speak strongly and clearly if you want life,” he said. “Ensure that your primary-care doctor believes in your principles and is willing to act powerfully to negotiate for the care you need.”

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“I believe it is at a point when the system figures that there is too much cost and effort. I believe that the system has a motivation towards moving those kinds of people towards medically assisted dying,” he added.

“I just want to make sure that people are aware that they have to be very careful when they are getting care that they speak for themselves and that they understand that the system, I think, has a leaning towards getting rid of the bad cases, the hard cases, the expensive cases. And they have to be aware of that.”

Abbotsford Regional Hospital is part of Fraser Health Authority, a publicly funded health care authority in British Columbia, Canada. This is not the first kind of complaint coming from this hospital system. In 2021, a couple reported that their elderly family member was pressured to be euthanized while battling cancer. In that same year, The B.C. Catholic conducted an investigation revealing nurses within the Fraser Health Authority system were encouraging patients to choose euthanasia.

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