A Winnipeg woman who suffered from ALS said she chose to end her life because of the healthcare system, not her illness.

Sathya Kovac, 44, died Monday through Manitoba’s medical assistance in dying (MAiD) program after a battle with amyotrophic lateral sclerosis (ALS).

As reported by the CBC, Kovac lived with ALS but struggled to find support for care at home as her condition worsened. 

“Ultimately it was not a genetic disease that took me out, it was a system,” Kovac wrote in her own obituary. “There is a desperate need for change. That is the sickness that causes so much suffering. Vulnerable people need help to survive. I could have had more time if I had more help.”

According to the obituary and comments shared with friends, she became increasingly exhausted at her efforts to get more help with essentials, driving her to access a professionally assisted death. 

“It’s hard because mentally she was there…. She accepted the changes in her body, but without enough support, how could anyone keep going?” said Shayla Brantnall, her support worker of over a year.

According to Janine LeGal, a friend of Kovac’s, she did not reveal that she was driven to seek MAiD because of the lack of support and care she received at home fearing her application would be denied. 

​​”Her death was imminent in the sense that she had ALS, so she would have died from that at some point, but … she could have been around for several more years, living a good life,” said LeGal. “It’s really painful for me to think about the fact that she is gone because our society doesn’t focus on giving people what they need.”

Kovac only received 55 hours of home care support each week. LeGal said that as her condition worsened, it was not enough. She added that Kovac was not able to afford additional care beyond what the public system provided.

“There are not enough supports and services promoting quality of life and independence for those who are not healthy and able-bodied, there is desperate need for change,” said Kovac in an interview with the Winnipeg Free Press published after her death. “That is the sickness that causes so much suffering. Vulnerable people need help to survive.”

“I felt like I had no choice but to end my life,” she said.

Family members of euthanized Canadians are calling on the federal government to do more to protect vulnerable people from wrongfully accessing the program. Erin Smith said she and her family lived the “horrible and traumatic experience of losing (their) father through MAiD.” While doctors had been planning for his discharge, Smith said a hospital staff member suggested to him that he would qualify for MAiD.

According to a Leger poll commissioned by Postmedia from earlier this year, 45% of Canadians supported extending doctor-assisted suicide to adults who are seriously mentally ill. When it comes to extending assisted suicide to those under the age of 18, 51% said they would support it as long as the minor displays a “certain level of maturity and decision-making ability.” 

In 2021, the Canadian Senate passed Bill C-7, which expanded eligibility for MAiD to patients with non-terminal conditions and mental illness. Critics of Bill C-7 said it removed critical safeguards meant to protect people.

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