A terminally ill Canadian man is suing his hospital, several governmental agencies and the attorneys general of Ontario and Canada after he claims he was denied proper medical care and offered assisted suicide instead.
Roger Foley, 42, suffers from cerebellar ataxia, a neurodegenerative disease that limits his motor skills and ability to speak.
In the lawsuit filed Feb. 14, Mr. Foley claims home-care providers selected by the government have caused him ill health, injury and inconvenience.
“I have been given the wrong medications, I have been provided food where I got food poisoning, I’ve had workers fall asleep in my living room, burners and appliances constantly left on, a fire, and I have been injured during exercises and transfers,” Mr. Foley told CTV. “When I report these things to the agency, I would not get a response.”
Mr. Foley said the home care, which was facilitated by the South West Local Health Integration Network, was so bad that he contemplated suicide.
“Unfortunately, the Ontario health-care system and the Ontario home-care system has broken my spirit and sent my life into a void of bureaucracy accompanied by a lack of accountability and oversight,” he said.
Mr. Foley said he has checked himself into London Health Science Centre’s Victoria Hospital, where he is currently bedridden, twice: once for food poisoning and a second time for suicidal thoughts.
His request to return home with a health care team of his choosing was denied last year by the Centre for Independent Living in Toronto.
The patient said he has “no desire to take up a valuable hospital bed.”
“I need self-directed funding in order to return to my home,” Mr. Foley said. “I need to be able to hire my own workers to build my care to work with me.”
According to the lawsuit, the hospital has given Mr. Foley the option to remain in the hospital at a cost of $1,800 per day, return home to the same health-care team selected by the government, or end his life.
Because he is a terminal patient, Mr. Foley qualifies for physician-assisted suicide under Canadian law. The practice was legalized in 2016.
Mr. Foley is suing the government for offering physician-assisted suicide without guaranteeing that Canadians will receive proper care if they want to live instead.
Attorney Ken Berger, who represents Mr. Foley, said the government has committed “serious constitutional violations.”
“Before anyone… can even be considered for assisted death,” Mr. Berger told CTV, “they need to have all necessary services provided to help them relieve their substantial suffering.”
Michael Bach, managing director of the Institute for Research and Development on Inclusion and Society, which advocates disability rights, said the lawsuit “makes absolutely clear” that there are insufficient safeguards in place for physician-assisted suicide.
“This is the problem: medical assistance in dying is come to be seen as another health care intervention when that was never the vision for this,” Mr. Bach told CTV.
Trudo Lemmens, a professor of health law and policy at the University of Toronto’s Faculty of Law, said medical aid in dying “should not be introduced as an option to someone who complains about sub-standard care and clearly not to someone who is suicidal.”
More than 2,000 Canadians availed themselves of aid in dying in the first year after the practice was legalized.