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Spina bifida patient says Montreal hospital staff twice offered MAID unprompted


Tracy Polewczuk has spina bifida, a birth defect that can cause weak bones. Two years ago, she was in an accident and broke her leg. The injury never properly healed.

She says she lives in constant pain and relies on daily home care visits from the Pointe-Claire CLSC, but recently, she says the care has been getting worse.

"They don't bother asking like they know your name, but they don't address you. It's just so impersonal, and they don't care," Polewczuk said in a recent interview. "You get up when they tell you to. You go to bed when they tell you. You do what they tell you to. That's it. You have zero control over your life."

Because of her injury, she says she needs to be moved a certain way.

"And I've gotten hurt several times because people won't listen," she said.

Polewczuk says she feels hopeless as if the system doesn't treat her like a human being.

"Pain sucks. We all agree. It's terrible. I'm in pain 24/7. It never stops. I can survive that. I cannot survive being treated like a sack of meat," she said.

Her husband, James, says there have been times when he was worried she might attempt to take her own life.

"I had to hide a certain medication that we have enough of that. If she took them, it would end her life. And I hid them," he explained.

It was in this vulnerable state that Polewczuk says she received the shock of her life.

On two separate occasions and without prompting, she says she was informed that she would be eligible for medical assistance in dying (MAID), once by a nurse at the rehabilitation centre at Ste-Anne's Hospital and another time by a social worker at the Verdun Hospital.

"It feels like we are being pushed towards the MAID program instead of being given the help to live," Polewczuk said.

The West Island Regional Health Authority refused to comment on the specific case for privacy reasons but said, "The rules surrounding medical aid in dying are very strict, and we respect them to the letter. The initiative must always come from the patient, not the nursing staff."

Doctor Paul Saba, a family physician, says that it's seen as a recommendation whenever a doctor makes a suggestion or a health care worker.

"We need to improve our health care system for everybody regardless of their condition, regardless of the disability," Saba said.

In 2022, more than 4,800 Quebecers opted for medical assistance in dying, more than any other province in Canada. Those figures raise serious questions for this patient's rights advocate.

"What are the circumstances in which those persons have asked it? Are these people at home not being served adequately, not getting a sufficient, not having anyone to help health her or him?" he said.

"My theory is that a lot of those people who have asked and gotten medical help to die, that they might have been in circumstances where they had no other choice."

Polewczuk says she often feels like a burden, but her choice is clear.

"I want to survive. I want to thrive. I want my life back. I want the opposite of what they're trying to have us do," she said.

CTV News asked Health Minister Christian Dube for comment but did not receive a response. Top Stories

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