News and Commentary

LISTEN: Man Suffering From Incurable Neurological Disease Releases Tapes Of Hospital Staff Seemingly Offering Assisted Death

A Canadian man suffering from an incurable neurological disease, who is hospitalized but has repeatedly asked to live at home, has released tapes of hospital staff seemingly offering him help seeking a medically-assisted death.

As CTV reports, Roger Foley, 42, who suffers from cerebellar ataxia which impedes his ability to move his arms and legs, filed a lawsuit against a London, Ontario hospital, several health agencies, the Ontario government and the federal government earlier this year, alleging that health officials would not provide him with an assisted home care team of his choosing.

Foley has now released audio recordings of conversations he had with two health care workers at Victoria Hospital London Health Sciences Centre, where he has resided since February 2016.

One audio recording from September 2017 features Foley speaking of his “forced discharge,” asking the health care worker how much he’d have to pay to remain in the hospital. After the man tells him, “I don’t know what the exact number is, but it is north of $1,500 a day,” Foley argues that the Ontario health minister said that was “not legal.” The health care worker replies that the hospital does not use “this conversation in every situation … It is only in situations where somebody has a plan in the community that is feasible that they’re not going to accept and that’s okay.”

Foley responds, “You have already violated my preferences. … So what is the plan that you know of?”

The health care worker states, “Roger, this is not my show. I told you my piece of this was to talk to you about if you had interest in assisted dying.”

In another audio recording from January 2018, after a health care worker asks Foley if he wants to injure himself, Foley answers that he’s “always thinking I want to end my life,” as he dislikes his hospital treatment and his requests to go home have been denied. The health care worker says that Foley can “just apply to get an assisted, if you want to end your life, like you know what I mean?” Foley says he is being forced to consider suicide, prompting the health care worker to say, “Oh, no, no, no. I’m saying if you feel that way…You know what I mean? Don’t get me wrong. I’m saying I don’t want you to be in here and wanting to take your life.”

Foley told CTV News he decided to release the recordings “to all Canadians as my situation got very bad recently where I almost died.” He added he wanted people to know “the real truth before it is too late for my voice to be heard … It is the real truth of what is going on in Canada regarding so many assisted deaths without appropriate safeguards, in combination with the lack of necessary care that is not being provided to persons who are suffering. … I have not received the care that I need to relieve my suffering and have only been offered assisted dying. I have many severe disabilities and I am fully dependent. With the remaining time I have left, I want to live with dignity and live as independently as possible.”

Tim Stainton, a professor at University of British Columbia’s School of Social Work, told CTV News that the audio recordings “present a deeply concerning picture. It would seem to indicate that the hospital has determined, not Mr. Foley, that MAID (medical assistance in dying) would be a reasonable option.”