CW: Assisted Suicide:
Jacques Comeau, 66, was not thinking about death a month ago. But he doesn’t know where to turn anymore. He will meet with a physician this week to be evaluated for medical assistance in dying (MAID).
Comeau, a retired art therapist from Montreal, is quadriplegic and uses a wheelchair. He says he’s thrived thanks to homecare services. Having reliable care allowed Comeau to go to college, travel, and work.
However, things changed over the summer when his local health center (CLSC) underwent significant adjustments. As a result, Comeau’s care regimen has changed, and he says it has impacted his quality of life.
Attendants come three times a week to help him perform his bowel program. According to him, the procedure is being handled incorrectly, endangering and hurting him. In addition, he has also experienced incontinence episodes.
Life consists of little and big moments, such as running errands, working, and visiting friends. For Comeau, however, these moments have been ruined because he cannot meet a basic need. He feels that his dignity and independence have been taken away.
Unfortunately, this crisis is affecting millions of people around the world. Jonathan Miller of Iowa requires 12 hours of in-home care per day. At 25, he experienced brain damage and paralysis on his left side following a brain tumor. He wants to remain at home, but that is becoming more difficult.
All of the home health agencies in charge of Jonathan’s care, according to his father, Don, are understaffed, which means Don and his wife Laurita are often rushing over to their son’s house, when there is no PCA available. Jonathan’s parents have been considering institutional care. They are now older and experiencing health issues.
The in-home care shortage has also affected me personally. Finding PCAs to assist me while I was in college was difficult. I made many attempts to hire employees. I posted an advertisement on Craigslist. My mother posted on social media and contacted the nursing program at the local community college. In the end, I went through three different PCAs. Subsequently, they never lasted more than a semester. They were frequently late or had unreliable transportation. My mom and a friend often had to take me to college with little notice which forced them to rearrange their schedules.
As a 23-year-old who lives with Cerebral Palsy, being forced into a group home or other facility is one of my biggest fears. I wouldn’t be able to make my own decisions in a group home. I wouldn’t go grocery shopping or decide when I went to bed. Little decisions that most people take for granted would be made for me.
My access to the community would be limited as well. I wouldn’t be able to go to the movie theater, library, or mall. Meals at restaurants would be a thing of the past as well. I may not be able to go outside on my own. I would be unable to leave on my own.
The situation is life-changing for people like Johnathan and Jacques. Nobody should be forced into an institution. Considering assisted suicide due to the lack of staff is heartbreaking to me. Jacques should be able to get the care he needs to continue living in Montreal. For millions of disabled people, the care shortage is a matter of life or death. Care can’t wait because people will die without it.
Krebs, Natalie. “A Shortage of Health Aides Is Forcing out Those Who Wish to Get Care at Home.” NPR, NPR, 5 May 2022, https://www.npr.org/sections/health-shots/2022/05/05/1095050780/a-shortage-of-health-aides-is-forcing-out-those-who-wish-to-get-care-at-home.
Roy, Lillian, and Angela MacKenzie. “’I Can’t Live That Way’: Montreal Man Seeking Medically Assisted Death Due to Home Care Conditions.” CTV News, CTV News, 29 Sept. 2022, https://montreal.ctvnews.ca/i-can-t-live-that-way-montreal-man-seeking-medically-assisted-death-due-to-home-care-conditions-1.6090165.