Veterans’ assisted death discussion is ‘serious wake-up call’, advocates tell MPs – National

The case of a Veterans Affairs Canada (VAC) employee discussing medical assistance in dying (MAID) with a veteran should serve as a « serious wake-up call » to the gaps veterans face in accessing proper care, advocates told a parliamentary committee on Monday.

The House of Commons Veterans Affairs Standing Committee heard directly from veterans and their supporters who said the discussion, which was first reported by Global News this summer, was a troubling sign that veterans combatants suffering from treatable mental health problems do not receive the necessary support from a service responsible for their care.

“My fear is that we are offering a way for people to end their lives when there are treatment options, but those treatment options are harder to access than medical assistance in dying,” Oliver said. Thorne, executive director of the Veterans Transition Network.

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Thorne decried the average length of time veterans are forced to wait for a disability benefit – nearly 10 months, according to an Auditor General’s report released last spring – and the minimum 90-day assessment period before marketing authorization can be provided.

“We cannot have a system that provides veterans with medical assistance in dying faster than it provides them with the evidence-based care they rightly deserve as a result of their service in Canada. « , did he declare.

Global News first reported on August 16 that a VAC employee discussed medical assistance in dying with a veteran, a case that has renewed departmental scrutiny and the ongoing fight for veterans. looking for support.

Sources told Global News that a VAC duty officer brought up medical assistance in dying, or MAiD, unprompted in a conversation with the veteran, who was discussing treatment for the disorder. post-traumatic stress and traumatic brain injury.

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Global News is not identifying the veteran due to privacy concerns, but has spoken directly with the individual, who says the duty officer brought up MAID multiple times and even after the veteran asked the service agent to stop.

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The veteran said he felt pressured as a result.

The officer who discussed MAID still works at the department, but no longer interacts directly with veterans, officials confirmed.

On Thursday, the committee heard Veterans Affairs Minister Lawrence MacAulay and his deputy Paul Ledwell say the investigation into the incident is still ongoing two months after it was launched.

Despite this, Ledwell – who is directly overseeing the investigation – assured members that the investigation determined the duty officer’s behavior was an isolated incident, even though the majority of service calls go unrecorded. The investigation determined that no recording was made of the call at the center of the controversy, he said.

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Ledwell said a review of employee records, which includes notes taken during calls, was fully reviewed to determine that no further discussions about MAID took place.

On Monday, witnesses openly questioned whether the department really didn’t have a recording of the MAiD call.

The committee ended Monday’s hearing by voting to recall MacAulay for another appearance to further discuss the department’s call recording policy and the possibility of finding a recording of the MAiD call.

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Throughout Thursday’s session, MacAulay repeatedly threw questions at Ledwell and appeared to grow frustrated as he explained that he could not provide details about the department or the investigation, in which he said he could not. be directly involved.

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Discussion on assisted dying renews warnings about gaps in veteran care

Veterans’ advocates have repeatedly expressed outrage at the ongoing discussion, citing it as an example of the difficulties veterans face in receiving proper care, especially for mental health issues.

As Remembrance Day approaches, these advocates say they’re concerned about the continuing epidemic of veterans dying by suicide, which makes discussing MAID with someone who wasn’t looking for it all the more painful. These concerns were expressed during Monday’s hearing.

The Auditor General’s report released in May found wait times remained consistent with 2014 levels despite initiatives by Veterans Affairs Canada to speed up processing. He also found shortcomings in approval processes and staffing, including the lack of a long-term staffing plan.

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— With files from Mercedes Stephenson

© 2022 Global News, a division of Corus Entertainment Inc.


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