Another woman living in Canada was considering assisted suicide due to chemical sensitivities. But thanks to the kindness of strangers, she was able to get into a new home, and is no longer trying to undergo Medical Aid in Dying (MAiD).
Known as “Denise,” a pseudonym, the 31-year-old woman is a wheelchair user and was diagnosed with Multiple Chemical Sensitivities (MCS), a condition triggered by things like cigarette smoke, laundry chemicals, and air fresheners. It can result in rashes, difficulty breathing, and headaches so severe they cause temporary paralysis. Additionally, a spinal cord accident has left her disabled, and in an interview with CTV News, she explained that her desperation for a new home that is wheelchair accessible and has clean air led her to ask for MAiD.
Even more shocking than her request is the news that the government approved her request to die.
“Relieved and elated,” Denise said of hearing that her MAiD request was granted. “I was scared that they weren’t going to say ‘yes.'” Due to her disabilities, Denise is unable to work, with her only income coming from Ontario’s Disability Support Program (ODSP). Dr. Riina Bray, medical director of the Environmental Health Clinic at Women’s College Hospital in Toronto, is one of Denise’s physicians, and has been trying to help her find new housing. According to Dr. Bray, Denise needed “immediate relocation.” But she wasn’t able to find anything in her budget.
“I’ve applied for MAiD essentially… because of abject poverty,” Denise said, adding that she had contacted 10 different agencies throughout Toronto. “None of them were able to do anything meaningful in terms of getting me relocated, getting the discretionary emergency, or temporary housing and emergency funds.”
Yet her request for MAiD was approved with much less difficulty — something that angered Dr. Bray. She said none of the doctors involved in getting Denise signed up for MAiD contacted her to understand why she wanted to die, or what their efforts had been to improve her situation. “Shocking,” Dr. Bray said. “They’re easily fixable situations.”
David Fancy, a professor of drama arts at Brock University and disability rights advocate, told CTV News that situations like Denise’s are not uncommon, and people with disabilities are essentially forced to die. “Door after closed-door after closed-door… the gauntlet tends to push people in the direction of the legislation that is there, which is medical assistance in dying,” he said. “I’ve got a very significant concern that this is the tip of the iceberg.”
Denise is not the first person to apply and be approved for MAiD due to MCS. In April, Live Action News reported the story of a woman under the pseudonym of Sophia, who also could not afford an appropriate place to live. Sophia, who also had MCS and struggled due to her condition, said, “The government sees me as expendable trash, a complainer, useless and a pain in the a**.” Other doctors, including Dr. Bray, also tried to help Sophia, but to no avail. Sophia was callously killed.
Thankfully, Denise has received an outpouring of support, and for now, may escape the same fate as Sophia. In a follow-up interview, CTV News reported that she has found a temporary home, and her MAiD application is currently on “pause.”
“These are strangers saying they do not want this to happen. I am even struggling to find the words,” Denise said. “I am no longer focusing on just survival. Mentally, I am more clear to put things in place to put a more liveable life.”
Denise confirmed that the doctors involved in granting her MAiD application were only concerned about helping her die; they had no interest in helping her live. “During the assessment, very little was focused on what services I had, what I needed to achieve some level of normal,” Denise said. “Nothing was offered in terms of support.”
The Well Earth collaborative is one of the organizations helping Denise, and the group is also working to help others with MCS. It has applied to get funding from the Canada Mortgage and Housing Corporation to build special housing for people with MCS and other sensitivities. While Denise’s story seems to have a happy ending for now, the horrifying truth is that others, like Sophia, died needlessly, simply because the Canadian government seemingly is not interested in giving people with disabilities the tools they need to live — only the tools they need to die.
Sophia could have survived if the government had been invested in her life. Like Denise, she needed help, not death. And if it hadn’t been for the last-minute support from CTV News readers, Denise might have died, too. Devorah Kobluk, who works with Legal Aid Ontario, says these stories are far from unusual, and that it’s a “devastating” reality of life with disabilities in Canada.
“There is an extraordinary cost of living with a disability that is unique to them and their disability. Wheelchairs are expensive, therapy… all these things cost extra,” Kobluk said. “With the right support, I have no doubt people with disabilities can live well in society. We all want people with disabilities to know that their lives have value.”
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