Quadriplegic man chooses euthanasia after getting bedsores in hospital

“For want of a mattress, a man is dead”.

Canadian man Normand Meunier, who died by euthanasia on 29 March this year, has made international headlines for all the wrong reasons. 

Normand applied to die by euthanasia after he was admitted to hospital with a respiratory virus, was not provided with a special air mattress, and developed painful bed sores as a result.

Normand was a 66 years old former truck driver, who became paralysed in 2022 after a spinal cord injury. 

After being admitted to hospital for his third respiratory virus in a space of three months, he was left on a stretcher in the emergency room for four days. 

Although his partner Sylvie Brosseau advocated for Normand to be put on a mattress, she was told that a special bed had to be ordered and he never got one. 

Without the mattress, Normand ‘developed a major pressure sore on his buttocks that eventually worsened to the point where bone and muscle were exposed and visible – making his recovery and prognosis bleak’.

Normand spoke with media the day before his death, telling them that he preferred to put an “end to his physical and psychological suffering by opting for a medically assisted death”

“I don’t want to be a burden”.

Steven Laperrière, of Regroupement des activistes pour l’inclusion au Québec (RAPLIQ), which supports people with disabilities, told CBC News that “the whole story is a crying shame … What are we doing in order to help disabled persons or sick people to live in dignity prior to dying in dignity?” 

Laperrière noted that getting a proper mattress is not like “trying to get a space shuttle into orbit.” “It’s pretty basic … Nobody will convince me that within a few hours the proper mattress could not have been found.”

University of Toronto Bioethicist Trudo Lemmens, commenting on Canada’s euthanasia regime, said:

“...people who are already vulnerable are left feeling like more of a burden in the system.

Then the system responds by saying: ‘well, you have access to medical assistance and dying’.

Medical assistance in dying is more easily available and on a more regular basis than some of the most basic care”.

As one commentator has observed:

“Disability and other advocates have been warning us for years that MAiD puts people at risk. They warned that the risk of people choosing death – because it’s easier than fighting to survive in a system that impoverishes people, and disproportionately does so to those who are disabled – is real”.

There have been calls for an independent inquiry into Normand’s case. It is clear that he was let down catastrophically by a health care system that failed to provide him with basic care and by a society that offers death as the default option when that care fails to be  provided.