Veteran services

Ottawa orders ‘full and thorough’ investigation into veterans’ assisted dying discussion – National

The federal government is launching a “full and thorough” investigation into the case of a Veterans Affairs Canada (VAC) employee discussing medical assistance in dying (MAID) with a veteran.

In a statement provided to Global News on Friday afternoon, a spokesperson for Veterans Affairs Minister Lawrence MacAulay said the minister “has directed his deputy minister to undertake a full and thorough investigation into this matter.” .

MacAulay is also directing that “all Veterans Affairs Canada front-line staff receive formal training, guidance and advice on how to address issues related to MAID,” the statement added.

The investigation and training comes after Global News first reported on August 16 that a Veterans Affairs Canada (VAC) employee discussed medical assistance in dying with a veteran, a matter which, according to veterans’ advocates, highlighted the significant issues in the ongoing struggle for veterans to gain access to supports.

The story continues under the ad

Sources told Global News that a VAC duty officer brought up MAID unprompted during a conversation with the veteran, who was seeking treatment for post-traumatic stress disorder and a traumatic brain injury.

Global News does not identify the veteran who was seeking treatment due to confidentiality concerns, but spoke directly with the individual, who says the duty officer brought up MAID multiple times and even after the veteran asked the duty officer to stop.

The veteran said he felt pressured as a result.

Read more:

‘Deny, delay, die’: Assisted dying discussion renews warnings about gaps in veteran care

He also said the duty officer told him in the call that he helped another veteran access medical assistance in dying resources through Veterans Affairs Canada, including a support for that person’s children who were dealing with impending death.

The veteran told Global News that the duty officer told him the other veteran had suffered a medically assisted death and was someone who was determined to end his life.

“Better than blowing your brains out all over the wall or driving your car into something,” the veteran says, the duty officer told him when describing this separate case.

Veterans Affairs Canada said earlier this week it was looking into the matter.

The story continues under the ad

The department and its staff lack the capacity to provide the resources needed for an assisted death, but veterans’ advocates have raised serious concerns about the impact of even raising the topic.

Click to play the video:

VAC worker’s medically assisted death suggestion to veteran sparks calls for investigation

VAC worker’s medically assisted death suggestion to veteran sparks calls for investigation

“It’s kind of like planting a seed,” said Debbie Lowther, executive director of VETS Canada, a charity that helps veterans in crisis.

“If we have a veteran who already has mental health issues and who may be contemplating suicide…this is an opportunity that has been presented to them.

For some, the thought of taking their own life and having a loved one find their body may have been a deterrent to having suicidal thoughts, she explained.

But presenting the option of having a medically assisted death instead, Lowther said, “could have very, very damaging consequences.”

The story continues under the ad

Read more:

Veterans Affairs says worker ‘inappropriately’ discussed physician-assisted dying with veteran

Bruce Moncur, founder of the Afghanistan Veterans Association of Canada, raised similar concerns.

“If that veteran was close to the edge, it could have been the hair that broke the camel’s back,” he said in an interview. “It’s so cavalier with someone’s life.”

Moncur fought in Afghanistan as a reservist and suffered head trauma after being shot in the head while deployed. He said learning that the duty officer had offered medical assistance in dying to a veteran left him “in shock, outrage and anger”.

“My understanding [is] this staff is still on payroll and still working at their jobs which is unacceptable to me. I just can’t understand how that person can still be trusted,” he said.

“I wonder, is this my case manager? Is someone trying to look after me?

Moncur, whose partner is NDP MP Niki Ashton, also criticized MacAulay’s performance in the position.

He said he sits on the Service Excellence Advisory Group, which advises the minister, and tried to call an emergency meeting about it.

“They denied my request,” Moncur said. “They said we were going to have a meeting in September anyway, so might as well wait until then.

The story continues under the ad

Read more:

Assisted death incident casts doubt on Veterans Affairs mental health supports: Advocates

Global News sent a detailed list of questions about the details of the allegations made by the veteran to officials at Veterans Affairs Canada. In response, the department said it does not record phone conversations between veterans and staff to protect privacy.

The department said it could not substantiate claims made by the veteran that the duty officer described helping a separate veteran access medical assistance in dying, or about the veteran’s claim that the officer told the separate veteran that MAID was “better than blowing your brains out”. out.”

The veteran who spoke to Global News said he had filed multiple complaints against the duty officer since July 21, 2022.

“When the veteran client called VAC to share what happened during the call, we immediately took action to remedy the situation and apologized to the client,” a spokesperson said. ‘Veterans Affairs Canada.

“As directed by the Minister of Veterans Affairs, the Deputy Minister will oversee a thorough internal investigation into this matter and take all necessary administrative steps to ensure this situation does not recur.

“In addition, all VAC frontline staff will receive training to remind them of the expectations and available programs and services offered by the Department to support the health and well-being of Veterans.

The story continues under the ad

Under Canadian law, medical assistance in dying can only be discussed between a primary care provider such as a physician or psychiatrist and their patient.

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