August 23, 2022

-Task & Purpose


A Canadian military veteran seeking counseling for post-traumatic stress disorder was offered a rather disturbing answer by an employee of Canada’s Veterans Affairs administration — medically assisted suicide.

As reported by Canada’s Global News, the veteran received the advice of a medically assisted death unprompted after seeking out treatment for a traumatic brain injury.

Veterans Affairs Canada confirmed that the incident occurred between the veteran and an employee “where medical assistance in dying was discussed inappropriately.”

The agency added that it “deeply regrets what transpired” and that “appropriate administrative action will be taken,” although no further details were offered.

Medical assistance in dying was first legalized in Canada in 2016, although, “Providing advice pertaining to medical assistance in dying is not a VAC service,” Global News reported, adding that the agency’s employees “have no mandate or role to recommend medical assistance in dying to veteran clients.”

According to Global News, the veteran had never discussed the issue of a medically assisted death, and was shocked by the suggestion. His family told Global News that he was seeking treatment for injuries he had suffered in the line of duty and that he had been making improvements to his mental and physical health before this bit of advice.

As one Marine told Task & Purpose, traumatic brain injuries can cause “headache, confusion, amnesia surrounding the time of the event, short-term memory problems, difficulty concentrating, mood alteration, difficulty sleeping, and anxiety.

At the same time, more than 30,000 American service members have died from suicide in the past 20 years. From 2015 to 2019, that rate increased by 41%.

In Canada, 12 members of the nation’s armed forces died from suicide in 2021, and 69 others died from the same cause between 2015 and 2019.

Trauma and suicide are real issues facing not only the American military, but Canada’s as well, which makes the suggestion of a medically assisted death as a solution to post-traumatic stress disorder all the disturbing.

As one retired Canadian Army Sgt., who suffered an injury of his own in Afghanistan,  told Global News, “To have a ministry whose responsibility is (to care for veterans) to say, ‘Well, maybe we could help you not be here,’ does that reinforce the feeling that it wasn’t worth it, that it was wasted?”