A Winnipeg woman who chose to die with medical assistance says the fight for home help led to a decision

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Sathya Dhara Kovac, 44, chose to die this week, even though she didn’t want to leave just yet.

The Winnipeg woman’s death was facilitated by professionals through Manitoba’s medical assistance in dying program.

Kovac lived with amyotrophic lateral sclerosis, a degenerative disease that took his mother, grandmother and uncle. Her condition was getting worse, but she felt she had more life to live – but not enough home support to do so.

“In the end, it wasn’t a genetic condition that took me out, it was a system,” Kovac wrote in an obituary to those close to him.

“There is a desperate need for change. It is the disease that causes so much suffering. Vulnerable people need help to survive. I could have had more time if I had had more help. “

On Monday morning, support worker and friend Shayla Brantnall rubbed Kovac’s head as she took her last breaths at home on her porch, surrounded by a small group of people and things that comforted her – a photo of her dog, candles, crystals.

But according to Kovac’s own obituary, statements she gave to the Winnipeg Free Press and things she shared with friends, she was exhausted from her failed efforts to get more help for her basic needs in home, and that’s what prompted her to access an assisted death medical service.

“It’s hard because mentally she was there… She accepted the changes in her body, but without enough support, how could we go on?” said Brantnall, who has supported Kovac three days a week for the past year and a half.

“You’re constantly stressed, you’re constantly struggling, like, ‘How am I going to go to the bathroom? How am I going to eat?’ It’s not really a good quality of life either.”

Kovac died on this cedar bench on the porch of her home on Monday. She lived with ALS and received medical assistance in dying, although friends say she only went through the process because of the obstacles she faced trying to get care at home adequate. (Submitted by Janine LeGal)

Kovac lived alone at home with her dog. She didn’t want to give that up to live in a facility, her friend Janine LeGal said.

She said Kovac did not tell the panel of professionals who assessed her request for medical assistance in dying that she was pressured into seeking MAID due to a lack of adequate home care, fearing that if she shared all his reasons, they would refuse her.

“Her death was imminent in the sense that she had ALS, so she would have died of it at some point, but … she could have lived many more years and lived a great life,” LeGal said.

“It’s really painful for me to think about the fact that she left because our society isn’t focused on giving people what they need.”

The Winnipeg Regional Health Authority said other supports are being explored before MAID is granted to candidates.

Applicants must have a “serious and incurable illness, disease or disability, a state of advanced decline that is irreversible and causes intolerable suffering,” the health authority said in a statement. He confirmed that Kovac meets the eligibility criteria.

Kovac received 55 hours of home care per week. As his condition has deteriorated over the past five months, LeGal says his needs have increased.

It was suggested to Kovac that she seek home help beyond what was provided to her by the public system, but she could not afford the additional costs, LeGal said.

Kovac and his dog. (Submitted by Janine LeGal)

In an interview with the Winnipeg Free Press released after her death, Kovac said the province and the ALS Society had indicated she would receive 24-hour care if she moved into the Riverview Health Centre. Kovac said she preferred to stay home and knew of other people who died shortly after being moved to long-term care.

Kovac felt humiliated by the process of applying for and not getting adequate home care services, LeGal said.

“She cared about the neighbours, the people and the community and she wanted others to care too, and sometimes that just didn’t happen. So she was very hurt about that.”

News Radio – MB9:45Sathya Dhara Kovac chose to die with medical assistance this week even though she didn’t want to go yet

Her friend with ALS chose to die on Monday because she didn’t think she had enough home care to continue – and now Winnipegger Janine LeGal is carrying her friends’ message of needing more support

Manitoba’s NDP opposition leader said Kovac’s experience underscores the need for more investment in home care services.

“She didn’t have the right home care services,” Wab Kinew said during Question Period on Tuesday, asking Premier Heather Stefanson what her Progressive Conservative government is doing to improve home care in Manitoba. .

Stefanson said Seniors and Long-Term Care Minister Scott Johnston is considering revamping and improving home care, with the review including how to address staffing shortages.

“We recognize that there is still work to be done,” Stefanson said. “That’s exactly why we created the ministry for the elderly.”

Nancy Hansen, a professor at the University of Manitoba and director of the university’s interdisciplinary master’s program in disability studies, says MAID “is kind of a simplistic solution to something that needs more creative thinking.” (Submitted by Nancy Hansen)

Nancy Hansen, professor and director of the interdisciplinary master’s program in disability studies at the University of Manitoba, said the case highlights serious issues about how expanded access to medical assistance in to die is offered to people with disabilities.

Prior to February, when MAID was extended to people with disabilities, an applicant faced “imminent” death, Hansen said.

“I don’t understand why society is so concerned with seeing death as dignified as related to disability, and yet a society will not provide the appropriate resources for people to live with dignity,” said Hansen, who is disabled.

“We provide funding as a society for things that we value, and it seems to me there’s a lack of value and a lack of value placed on disability,” she said.

Hansen said physician-assisted death “is kind of a simplistic solution to something that needs more creative thinking.”

LeGal says she regrets not mounting a more robust advocacy campaign for her friend sooner.

“I feel like his voice hasn’t been heard,” LeGal said. “She taught me a lot about the value of life.”

Janine LeGal says her friend Kovac, pictured, felt humiliated by the process of applying for and not getting adequate home care services. “She cared about the neighbours, the people and the community and she wanted others to care too, and sometimes that just didn’t happen. So she was very hurt by that. (Submitted by Janine LeGal)
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