'I can't live that way': Montreal man seeking medically assisted death due to home care conditions
A month ago, death wasn't on 66-year-old Jacques Comeau's mind.
But now, he doesn't know where else to turn. On Wednesday, he's meeting with a doctor to be assessed for medical assistance in dying (MAID).
Comeau, a retired art therapist from Montreal, is quadriplegic and uses a wheelchair.
Like everyone, he's been through ups and downs. But through homecare services, he says, he's lived a rich and happy life.
"It allowed me to go back to school, get degrees, to work. Everything I've done, travelling, it's because I'm able to not have to worry about that," he told CTV News.
Things changed over the summer, however, when his local health service centre (CLSC) underwent some changes.
As a result, aspects of Comeau's care routine are different and he said it has affected his quality of life.
"I'm stressed beyond belief, I'm not sleeping well, I'm not eating regularly," he said. "The amount of pain I'm dealing with, psychologically, is the kind I've never dealt with. I became disabled as a young person and got through that. And this is 10 times worse."
Comeau says his efforts to negotiate a solution with the CLSC have been fruitless. Depressed and desperate, there's only one path forward he can think of.
"I wake up in the morning, and my first thought is, 'how am I going to make sure I'm not going to kill myself today.'"
A SUDDEN CHANGE
CTV spoke with Comeau in his Lachine home on Thursday, where his own paintings and photographs decorate the walls.
It's here where, three times a week, orderlies appear to help him relieve his bowels.
For years, the service was performed by the same 10 to 15 people, who have become familiar with Comeau's body and its specific needs. They've also become trusted companions -- it's an intimate service, after all, and the walls come down.
But according to Comeau, the CLSC Dorval-Lachine changed the system, sending him new orderlies he doesn't know.
He says the procedure is being performed incorrectly, causing him discomfort and pain.
"The second person that came, she overdid it, and I had an involuntary bowel movement. So I had stool come out in my pants in the middle of the day, and I was in pain and cramping all day long," he recounted.
Jacques Comeau, 66, has applied for medical assistance in dying (MAID) due to what he calls inadequate home care services. (CTV Montreal/Lillian Roy)
He thought the solution would be simple: have the usual orderlies come in and train the new ones according to his particular needs.
But the CLSC allegedly refused, stating training could only be performed by a nurse.
"I was totally taken aback," he said. "When they talked about these changes coming, I knew there would be an issue with people who had never come here before, because although they're all trained in this technique, it's different with each person."
The health authority that oversees the CLSC Dorval-Lachine, the CIUSSS de l'Ouest-de-l'Île, declined CTV's multiple requests for comment about Comeau's case, citing confidentiality concerns.
However, a CIUSSS spokesperson noted that patient care can sometimes be affected by staffing issues.
"Whenever possible, we try to offer stable staff to our clients so that they are cared for by the same health care professional," wrote spokesperson Hélène Bergeron-Gamache in an email. "However, the labour shortage context we are facing does not always allow for this."
She said all orderlies have "received the required training."
"Please note that, by law, [home service workers] must be trained by a nurse."
'I CAN'T LIVE THAT WAY'
Running errands, working, visiting friends -- it's all those moments, big and small, that come together and form a life.
But these moments have been interrupted for Comeau because he can't take care of a basic need.
"Think about a period where you had diarrhea, or you had a stomach bug. Every day, you're getting up and you're like, 'Am I going to make it to the bathroom on time? Do I bother going to work today, do I get in my car? Do I go to the grocery store?' And that's my life every day now."
He says his dignity and autonomy have been stripped away.
"Is my life going to be sitting in front of a TV, wearing a diaper, sitting in stool all day long? Is that what my life is going to be?" he continued. "I can't live that way."
It's a relentless source of anxiety.
"The biggest problem is, I get up in the morning, I don't know who's coming, how it's going to go. So I'm constantly on edge wondering what's happening."
A FAILURE OF THE SYSTEM?
Accessibility advocate Adèle Liliane Ngo Mben Nkoth says Comeau's circumstances are far from unheard of.
"Everywhere in Quebec, we see this," said Nkoth, an organizer with MEMO Quebec, a group representing people with motor disabilities where Comeau worked before retiring.
"It's deplorable to see that in Canada, in Quebec, in 2022, that we find ourselves in these situations, for a country so rich as ours," she added.
Jacques Comeau (left) and Adèle Liliane Ngo Mben Nkoth (right). (CTV Montreal/Lillian Roy)
Nkoth said instances like this are preventable, and that death should not be the only option.
"It's a shame that people come to think they have to take medical aid to die because that care is not there."
Dr. Paul Saba, a family physician and board of physicians president at Lachine Hospital, agrees.
He fears failures in the system, which can be fixed with the right policy and funding, are driving people to end their lives prematurely.
"People are choosing it because they can't get proper housing, can't get affordable housing, can't get food, where they're not getting enough social services, not enough nursing help," he told CTV News.
"We're basically getting rid of people that we consider as 'undesirables' and society is going along with it. We must say 'stop.'"
But for Comeau, it feels like the only option unless something changes, fast.
"I can accept the idea of death by saying 'I've had a good life,'" he said.
"I’ve done everything, I’ve paid my taxes, I’ve contributed to society, but here I am."
CTVNews.ca Top Stories
Phase 1 of Canada's single-use plastics ban comes into effect this month. These are the products on the list
Canada's ban on single-use plastics, starting with the manufacture and import for sale of a number of products, comes into effect later this month.
The federal government has approved a change in how the cannabis content of beverages is calculated, pushing the number of standard-sized, canned pot drinks that can be bought at once from five to 48.
Pulled from a sunken trunk at an 1857 shipwreck off the coast of North Carolina, work pants that auction officials describe as the oldest known pair of jeans in the world have sold for US$114,000.
Instagram has published a new report highlighting the top rising trends for the coming year among Gen Z users across the platform.
'I will not be resigning': Winnipeg police chief supportive of determining if landfill search is possible
Amid calls for his resignation, Winnipeg's police chief says he will not be stepping down and is committed to getting justice for the four victims of an alleged serial killer.
World Cup 2022 quarterfinals: Two penalty shootouts sees Argentina, Croatia move on; top-ranked Brazil, Netherlands out
The men’s World Cup quarterfinal stage kicked off on Friday as Croatia eliminated Brazil and Argentina beat the Netherlands. CTVNews.ca has all the latest from the tournament.
France will make condoms free in pharmacies for anyone up to age 25 in the new year, President Emmanuel Macron announced Friday.
W5 EXCLUSIVE | Exclusive surveillance footage shows duffel bags being loaded onto Pivot Airlines jet
CTV's W5 has been shown never-before-seen surveillance footage of Punta Cana International Airport from the night before a Canadian airline crew was detained after discovering duffel bags stuffed with 210 kilograms of cocaine in their plane's avionics bay.
A security breach linked to Ontario’s COVID-19 vaccine portal exposed the personal information of thousands of people in the province.
A monkey cloaked in a tiny shearling coat was found roaming an Ikea in Toronto 10 years ago to date.
An emailed letter to staff of a Halifax-area hospital says that the pressure on the emergency room has risen to the point where there's no space to assess patients and one in 10 people aren't seen before they give up and leave.
'Something has to change': Criticism for N.S. Workers' Compensation Board after injured worker speaks out about delays
Harsh criticism is being directed towards the Workers’ Compensation Board of Nova Scotia after a worker who was paralyzed on-the-job spoke out about the delays he's experiencing when it comes to receiving support.
Céline Dion, the award-winning singer best-known for her hit “My Heart Will Go On,” has gone public with her diagnosis of stiff person syndrome, which impacts one in every one million people.
London police have issued a public safety warning for an ex cop charged with multiple alleged serious crimes, including sexual assault, and are alerting the public believing there could be additional potential victims.
It’s not every day that you see a house flying through the air and landing safely in its place. But that was the scene that played out on Cranbrook Road in London, Ont. on Friday, as a local family had a tiny home delivered for their daughter.
On Friday, Atlohsa announced the relaunch of its Indigenous-led Wiigiwaaminaan winter response program for homelessness and will be operating a temporary shelter in south London, Ont.
CTV News has learned the City of Greater Sudbury is looking for a new chief financial officer, in a hastily-called news conference Friday morning at Tom Davies Square.
The much-anticipated new Costco gas station on the Kingsway in Sudbury has opened and despite being $0.09 to $0.26 per litre less than nearby stations, there were no big lineups Friday morning.
Prime Minister Justin Trudeau announced at the COP-15 Biodiversity conference Wednesday that Ottawa will be giving $800 million to four Indigenous-led conservation initiatives.
'Given the nature of the call, the fact that there was the potential of a weapon involved and what I'll call 'hostages' inside the bank – even though they were self isolating – that initiated the tactical response,' police said.
The Alberta government has handed the keys for the newly built Calgary Cancer Centre to the agency that delivers health care in the province.
Speedskater Ivanie Blondin embraces beefy race schedule, Canmore's Connor Howe wins silver in Calgary
Ivanie Blondin relishes a heavy workload.
Police services in Guelph, Waterloo region and Brantford are issuing warnings after a string of thefts targeting Dodge Ram pickup trucks.
It was a ruff afternoon for Carl, a dog that needed rescuing after falling an estimated 50 feet into the Elora Gorge around 4 p.m. on Friday.
An Ontario children's hospital recently turned to the Canadian Red Cross for help dealing with "unprecedented volumes" of respiratory illness, but B.C.'s Health Ministry tells CTV News it's not considering such a step in the province.
Two suspects who allegedly held two women against their will in a U-Haul van in B.C.’s Lower Mainland have now been charged.
An elementary school in Vancouver is going by a new name after getting a gift from a B.C. First Nation Friday.
A 15-month-old girl from Calgary is in hospital in Edmonton after contracting three respiratory viruses, a situation doctors say is uncommon.
Two people were killed Friday and two others were taken to hospital after a crash on Highway 21 on the southeast outskirts of Edmonton.
City council approved a large basket of amendments Friday covering more bus rapid transit, a $100 million bike lane investment and Chinatown infrastructure improvements, which have increased the tax increase by another 1.3 per cent.
Windsor police have arrested 21 people and recovered $5,100 in stolen merchandise during a crackdown on retail theft at Home Depot and Real Canadian Superstore.
Windsor police have arrested one person and seized over $8,000 in drugs from a home on Erie Street.
The traffic between Windsor and Detroit increased after the federal government dropped the ArriveCan app.
A Saskatchewan man is facing attempted murder charges following an alleged altercation involving guns with RCMP officers on Wednesday afternoon.
A man guilty of sexually assaulting a 14-year-old girl was sentenced to more than a decade in prison Friday afternoon, nearly two and a half years after he was convicted.
Regina man living with Stiff Person Syndrome hopes Celine Dion's diagnosis shines light on condition
John Shivak of Regina has been living with Stiff Person Syndrome (SPS) for 30 years and hopes Celine Dion’s announcement of her diagnosis shines more light on the disease.
Watson takes 'full responsibility' for LRT failings in first statement since damning report but also blames RTG
Former Ottawa mayor Jim Watson has issued his first public statement since the release of a scathing report into Stage 1 of LRT. He said he takes 'full responsibility' for the system's shortcomings but did not directly address many of the report's findings.
An Ottawa lawyer, who earlier this month made headlines because of accusations of sexual misconduct, has had his law licence suspended following a hearing into unrelated issues with the Law Society of Ontario.
The Royal Canadian Dragoons, Canada's most senior cavalry regiment, were presented with new colours Friday. The ceremony took place for just the fifth time in the regiment's nearly 140-year history.
A Saskatchewan man at the centre of a police hunt spanning more than two years is now behind bars.
Firefighters were called to the city's Canada Post facility Friday morning over concerns about a suspicious package leaking an unknown substance.
A Saskatoon woman is facing a sexual assault charge following an alleged incident involving a minor.