Advocates of euthanasia claim their movement is all about giving terminally ill patients the autonomy to determine how their lives will end, but as hospitals face pressures to cut costs, some patients are being heavily pressured to take their own lives.
That’s what is happening to Canadian resident Roger Foley. The 42-year-old has an incurable neurological disorder but wishes to live at home as comfortably as possible. His first round of home care did not go well, as caregivers left burners on and even accidentally poisoned him.
Foley is currently in a London, Ontario, hospital and wants to return home under self-directed care. But the London Health Science Centre’s Victoria Hospital refuses, urging him to pursue assisted suicide or face medical bills of $1,500 per day.
Even though Canadian law states the patient must initiate any conversation on euthanasia, Foley’s protests fell on deaf ears until he secretly recorded conversations with hospital personnel and released them.
“You can just apply to get assisted – if you wanted to end your life. You don’t have to do it in some dramatic manner. You can apply for assisted you know,” said one person.
“Roger, this is not my show,” said another as Foley again pleaded for self-directed home care. “I told you my piece of this is to talk to you about if you had interest in assisted dying,” said another.
Euthanasia Prevention Coalition Executive Director Alex Schadenberg says this exposes one of the great lies about assisted suicide.
“This is supposedly about choice and autonomy and freedom and the physicians are not supposed to be involved in the pressuring point. Nonetheless, they see him as an expense,” said Schadenberg, who is also executive producer of multiple documentaries on the subject. The most recent film is “Fatal Flaws.”
Canada’s assisted suicide law was pitched as a humane approach to the dying, but Schadenberg says the balance sheet often determines whether some doctors think a life is worth living.
“You can’t be telling doctors they have to save money in every way that they can to try to get people out of the system as fast as possible and then not have them rejoicing every time they do a euthanasia death because they’ve saved the system big money,” said Schadenberg. “This is supposed to be about choice and autonomy. It’s all a lie.”
He says some doctors are known for frequently recommending euthanasia to patients and the same doctors who conduct assisted suicides are responsible for reporting them so there’s very little transparency.
And Roger Foley is not alone. Schadenberg has heard from many families facing the same pressure. He also shared the story of Candice Lewis, a young woman with multiple disabilities who was pressured by the system to take her own life in 2016.
“Yes, she was very sick, but they were pressuring Candice and her mother to ask for an “assisted death”. When the mother said, ‘We want nothing to do with this,’ the doctor told her that she was being selfish,” said Schadenberg.
Listen to the full podcast to learn about Roger Foley’s legal fight to live on his own terms, what happened when Schadenberg and his associates tried to visit Foley in the hospital and more.