Two more instances of a Veterans Affairs Canada employee discussing medical assistance in dying with a veteran have been discovered during an ongoing investigation into the department, the responsible minister told MPs on Thursday.
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Veterans Affairs Minister Lawrence Macaulay told the House of Commons Standing Committee on Veterans Affairs that this brought the total number of cases involving a single VAC service agent to four, and that the RCMP had been contacted.
“I have directed the deputy (minister) to examine all options in this investigation, including handing over the matter to the police for investigation, if necessary. I can confirm that the RCMP has been contacted, and steps have been taken to formally refer the matter to the department,” McAuley said.
“If any veterans are watching right now, I’m sorry,” he said, calling any discussion of assisted dying with a veteran seeking care “completely unacceptable.”
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Macaulay said the four calls confirmed by the department are from 2019.
Granthshala News first reported on Aug. 16 that a VAC employee had discussed medically assisted dying with a veteran, a case that sparked renewed scrutiny on the department and the ongoing struggle for veterans seeking support. brought.
Sources told Granthshala News that a VAC service agent mentioned medical aid in dying, or MAID, in a conversation she had earlier this year with the combat veteran, who was diagnosed with post-traumatic stress disorder and traumatic brain injury. Was discussing the treatment of the injury.
Granthshala News is not identifying the veteran due to privacy concerns, but has spoken directly with the man, who says the service agent brought up MAID repeatedly and even after the veteran asked the service agent to stop.
The veteran said he felt pressured as a result.
They also said the service agent told them in the call that they had helped them access resources for medical assistance in dying through Veterans Affairs Canada, including support for the children of a person who is coping with imminent death. Were staying
The veteran told Granthshala News that the service agent told him that other veterans passed out from medically assisted death, and this was someone who was determined to end his life.
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Both of those cases were previously confirmed by Macaulay and his deputy, Paul Ledwell, during an appearance at the Veterans Affairs Committee in October.
Macaulay had previously and repeatedly called the situation an “isolated incident”.
Macaulay told the committee on Thursday that the investigation launched in August was still ongoing, as was training with all VAC staff to ensure MAiD is never raised again with a veteran.
Yet he said, in light of the discovery of the new cases, the investigation has been expanded to look at management and previous employee training to determine how the employee was able to repeatedly lift the process with customers.
He said that one of the newly exposed cases happened in 2019, while the other happened in May this year.
Ledwell confirmed that the service agent behind the cases has been suspended, but did not say when the suspension began. He had previously said that the employee was no longer working directly with ex-servicemen and had been reassigned within the department.
Macaulay assured the committee that only one employee was responsible for many of the cases and was not a systemic issue.
“It is not widespread within the department,” Ledwell added later.
Under Canadian law, medically assisted dying can only be discussed between a primary care provider, such as a physician or psychiatrist, and their patient. Violators of the law can be jailed for up to 14 years.
VAC has repeatedly confirmed to Granthshala News that staff have no authority to discuss MAID with veterans and do not have the ability to provide the resources needed to assist the dying.
New training being provided to staff since August has clarified that service agents and case managers can only discuss MAiD in the context of the impact on benefits for families of veterans. Any instance of a veteran raising an MAiD with a service agent or case worker should be brought up to that employee’s supervisor.
Macaulay said Thursday that efforts are ongoing to ensure that all employees in the department are given updated training.
The veteran who spoke to Granthshala News said they were concerned that MAiD was offered to other veterans. Veterans advocates, meanwhile, have said that Veterans Affairs officials have expressed doubt during closed-door meetings as to whether any assisted dying discussions took place.
Veterans and advocates have said that discussions like this are an example of the ongoing struggles veterans face in getting proper care — particularly for mental health concerns.
Those advocates say they are especially concerned about the ongoing epidemic of veterans dying by suicide, who find discussing MAID with someone who was not asking for it more painful.
With files from Mercedes Stephenson