Source: Royal Victoria Hospital

Normand Meunier, a quadriplegic man in Quebec, sought assisted suicide after he developed bed sores due to a lack of specialized care at a hospital in Saint-Jérôme, Que.

According to Radio-Canada, who originally reported the story, Meunier’s arms and legs had been paralyzed since 2022 after experiencing a spinal cord injury.

In the article, his partner Sylvie Brosseau said Meunier spent 95 hours on a stretcher while in intensive care for a respiratory virus.

According to Brosseau, he was in the emergency room for four days.

When Bosseau advocated for Meunier to receive a specialized bed, she was apparently told that the hospital would have to order one.

Due to not receiving a specialized bed and spending those days on a hospital cot, Meunier developed bed sores and a major pressure ulcer on his buttocks to the point where muscle and bone were exposed and visible.

The hospital told Radio-Canada they are investigating the incident but have beds available at the hospital.

Meunier had experienced bedsores before and was undergoing treatment for his wounds, but he opted for assisted suicide instead of dealing with the physical and psychological suffering.

“I don’t want to be a burden. At any rate, the medical opinions say I won’t be a burden for long; as the old folks say, it’s better to kick the can.” Meunier told Radio-Canada in an interview a day before dying.

True North reached out to Dr. Stefanie Green a medical assistance in dying professional and an advocate for Canadian access to assisted suicide.

“This is not/should not be/ought not to be hijacked to be a conversation about MAiD,” Green said in an email to True North. “This story is about a major failing at an ER that left a man ill. That terrible mistake should not reflect on the cardiology service at the hospital down the road, the GI service in another city, or the country’s MAiD program (or the price of rice in Beijing for that matter).”

Krista Carr, the executive vice-president of Inclusion Canada, a disabled people rights advocacy group, spoke to True North over the phone.

“It’s just a terrible testament to where things have gotten to in our society that we would think death provided by the state would be an acceptable solution to alleviating the ‘suffering’ of people with disabilities,” Carr said. “We know there are thousands of people with disabilities in this country who, when they have access to the right supports, live really good, happy, healthy, and positive lives.”

Carr advocates for better quality and more access to social services, which if funded properly, she believes would steer many people living with disabilities away from accessing assisted suicide.

“(Meunier’s) case is particularly tragic because it resulted in certainly significant harm to the individual and family, but also in a death that should never have had to happen,” she said. “When we first brought in our MAiD legislation in Canada, it was for people who were terminally ill. It was for people who were suffering intolerably whose death was reasonably foreseeable.”

She said after 2021, with Bill C-7, the government expanded the assisted suicide system to include what’s called “track 2” which includes people who are suffering intolerably and whose death was not reasonably foreseeable.

She said the difference between the two tracks is that the first track is for people who are trying to “escape a painful death,” whereas “track 2 MAiD” is often for those trying to “escape a painful life.”

“The intolerable suffering (of many living with disabilities) is not being caused by the disability.” Carr said. “It’s caused by how society limits, excludes and doesn’t give them the support that they need to live a life on par with other people.”

In 2021, the year assisted suicide was expanded to include those whose deaths were not “reasonably foreseeable,” 223 people died under the newly expanded legislation. In 2022, 463 people whose deaths were not foreseeable died using assisted suicide, growing the number of deaths by 1.3% annually.

Data for 2023 has not been publicly released at this time.

Carr said in the case of Meunier in Quebec, it could have been avoidable if he received the “proper healthcare he deserved.”

“When someone with a disability accesses MAiD if you don’t think somebody somewhere with a pencil knows how much less that’s going to cost to support that person,” Carr said. We’re not going to get better services. Already underfunded, under-available, non-adequate, non-inclusive services will only get worse.”