Disabled woman requests euthanasia because she can’t access affordable housing

A disabled woman in Toronto is awaiting approval for Canada’s medical aid in dying (MAiD) program, making her request after a “fruitless bid to secure an affordable apartment that doesn’t worsen her chronic illnesses”.

The 31-year-old woman, who goes by ‘Denise’ in the media, was diagnosed with Multiple Chemical Sensitivities (MCS), triggered by cigarette smoke, laundry chemicals and air fresheners.

Denise, who uses a wheelchair as a result of a spinal cord injury six years ago, said she wants to move to an apartment that has clean air and disability access, but her only income is from Ontario’s Disability Support Program. 

Only eligible for a total of $1,219 per month, Denise is unable to afford appropriate housing. She says her application for MAiD comes from her inability to afford a safe living arrangement.

Her physician, Dr Riina Bray, medical director of the Environmental Health Clinic at Women’s College Hospital in Toronto says Denise requires “immediate relocation for her safety”.

Despite this and asking for help from 10 different housing agencies over the last six months, Denise has been unable to find housing she can afford on her ODSP payment.

“None of them were able to do anything meaningful in terms of getting me relocated, getting the discretionary emergency, or temporary housing and emergency funds.

“I've applied for MAiD essentially...because of abject poverty.”

Though she has struggled and not been able to find assistance or appropriate housing for her condition, CTV News reports that “applying for medically assisted death has been surprisingly easier,” with a psychiatrist, a MAiD provider and another physician all signing off on her decision.  

Bray said none of the doctors contacted her to learn about the efforts to help Denise find housing first. This is despite research showing that people with multiple chemical sensitivities often improve in chemically cleaner environments.

“Shocking,” she said. “They're easily fixable situations," said Bray.

Denise confirmed that when friends and supporters can raise money for her to stay at a wheelchair-accessible hotel that's near a ravine with clean air, her symptoms lessen greatly.

Denise’s situation, though difficult to manage, could be easily improved if proper care was given. Providing Denise with better housing options or subsidised rent could help the young woman live for a long time and alleviate the difficulties she is experiencing. However rather than help, the Canadian government has made it simple and easier for Denise to have her life ended prematurely.

This isn’t the first time Canada’s system has made it easier for someone to die than to receive help with living. HOPE reported last year on Madeline, a Canadian woman suffering from chronic fatigue who found herself eligible for MAiD, but not for effective vitamin injections.

In less than six years since legalising euthanasia, Canada is now signing off on death for treatable conditions instead of providing appropriate care.

"Society is failing these patients," said Dr Bray. “My hope is that we can just put a stop to this very easy out that MAiD is providing and start acknowledging that these people need to be helped.”