Medical assistance in dying: a disabled woman finds a lifeline

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A 31-year-old disabled Torontonian who was conditionally approved for medically assisted death after an unsuccessful offer for safe housing says her life has been ‘stabilized’ by an outpouring of support after telling her story.

“It’s… breathtaking and inspiring,” Denise said in a phone interview.

Her voice sounded considerably louder than in April when she last spoke with CTV News about her pending approval for MAID, a decision she said she made, in part, because she suffered from severe sensitivities. chemicals in an apartment filled with smoke and fumes that made her sick.

She told CTV News at the time that she spent months trying to find housing with cleaner air and basically gave up and was cleared by two doctors to qualify for a death. assisted.

But now that she has found temporary accommodation, no longer struggles for every breath, and her extreme suffering has lessened, her MAID claim is on hold. However, Denise says she did not rescind the MAID request because she still has several other pain-causing chronic conditions that have not been properly treated.

But because she has no permanent solution, if the hotel she is currently staying in is booked, she says she must return to the apartment that is making her sick.

After the story captured worldwide attention, supporters set up a GoFundMe campaign that has now raised over $65,000 in donations from nearly 1,000 people as well as countless emails from encouragement.

“These are strangers saying they don’t want this to happen. I even struggle to find the words,” Denise said.

She says she now stays in a hotel room in Toronto that uses low-scent cleaning chemicals and has windows that open onto a ravine, providing fresh air.

“I don’t just focus on survival anymore,” she told CTV News. “Mentally, I’m clearer to put things in place to make a more livable life.”

She is working to find long-term subsidized housing and hopes to help other people with chemical sensitivities.

The “irreparable suffering” that qualified her for medically assisted death was fixable, said Dr. Riina Bray, medical director of the Environmental Health Clinic at Women’s College Hospital in Toronto and one of Denise’s doctors.

“It says these patients can easily get back to well-being if they have the right environment to live in. It’s a simple equation,” she said.

Denise, who asked CTV News not to use her real name to protect her identity, was diagnosed with multiple chemical sensitivities (MCS), which trigger skin rashes, difficulty breathing and blinding headaches.

Research shows that people with multiple chemical sensitivities often do better in chemically cleaner environments.

She is also in a wheelchair after a spinal cord injury six years ago.

But her only income comes from the Ontario Disability Support Program (ODSP) which pays $1,169 a month plus $50 for a special diet. This made it impossible for Denise to pay for a better apartment away from smoke and chemicals.

When repeated requests for subsidized apartments in healthier locations went unanswered from housing officials, she applied for MAID, “essentially, because of abject poverty,” she said. to CTV News in April.

She was approved by two doctors and asked for documentation of funeral preparations by a third.

Denise’s supporters are calling for a closer look at how and why she was approved for MAID when she needed accommodation that didn’t make her symptoms worse.

“We are calling for an investigation… into physicians who misapply (MAD) legislation,” said David Fancy, a Brock University professor and one of Denise’s supporters.

Denise says doctors who offered physician-assisted dying discussed her suffering, not solutions. “During the assessment, very little focused on what services I had, what I needed to achieve some level of normality. Nothing was offered in terms of support,” he said. she declared.

The Well Earth Collaboration, which is raising funds for Denise, is also applying to Canada Mortgage and Housing Corporation for funding to build special housing for others with environmental sensitivities, with 50 acres of land in an area rural area north of Toronto identified as a potential location.

Multiple Chemical Sensitivity (MCS) is a recognized disability under the Canadian Human Rights Act. It is thought to be caused by exposures to chemicals or other environmental exposures that cause physical symptoms, although it is a controversial diagnosis in the medical community.

Her story is eerily similar to one reported by CTV News earlier in April. Sophia also suffered from multiple chemical sensitivities. She was given a medically assisted death in February, after numerous attempts to clear an apartment of smoke and chemicals in her building.

Canadian statistics suggest that at least 700,000 people in the country suffer from chemical sensitivities.

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