Manitoba

Winnipeg man receives assisted-death assessment after concerns faith-based hospital caused delay

An 88-year-old Winnipeg man has received his required assessment for medically-assisted death after he says it was delayed by the faith-based hospital where he now lives.

‘I want to die and nobody should come in the way of my deciding how to go about it.'

Cheppudira Gopalkrishna says he is happy to have received the required assessment for medically-assisted death. (Kelly Malone/CBC)

An 88-year-old Winnipeg man has received his required assessment for medically assisted death after he says it was delayed by the faith-based hospital where he now lives.

On Friday, Cheppudira Gopalkrishna was able to do an assessment with the province's Medical Assistance in Dying (MAID) services.

"I want to die and nobody should come in the way of my deciding how to go about it," Gopalkrishna said on Saturday evening.

The former teacher has been at the Misericordia Health Centre for several months after his health declined significantly. He has a form of Lou Gehrig's disease, also known as ALS, and has lost almost all of his mobility.

Gopalkrishna started looking into the possibility of a medically assisted death in May but the hospital and the Winnipeg Regional Health Authority's timelines differ about what happened next.

Misericordia insists the hospital provided its patient with information about MAID in May, also contacting the assisted-death team. But MAID says it wasn't given Gopalkrishna's name and couldn't make contact. 

Months later, after not hearing anything, Gopalkrishna spoke with a volunteer at the Misericordia, asking about medically assisted death again. The volunteer ended up contacting MAID on his behalf.

The hospital and the MAID team also differ in their accounts around sharing Gopalkrishna's medical records, which caused another delay.

The Misericordia is a faith-based abstaining facility, meaning it doesn't offer assisted dying services on the premises, including an initial assessment to determine eligibility, which held up the process again.

Provincial policy outlines that faith-based facilities do not have to allow MAID services to be provided on premises.

The process generally takes a minimum of two weeks from when the MAID team is contacted to the earliest date a person could choose to have an assisted death. There is a 10-day waiting period mandated within the legislation. 

But since Gopalkrishna first inquired last May, it had been months before he could get the mandatory MAID assessment. 

Even when it was finally approved, Gopalkrishna had to be moved offsite for the assessment.

Gopalkrishna said he is glad the assessment is done but he hasn't set up a date with the team. Patients can have approval but then not use it for an extended period of time based on their own preference.

"I will die, no problem there, and I hope they allow me to die as soon as possible when I'm getting to the point that I'm uncomfortable," he said.

While he didn't expect his request for medically assisted death to start a conversation in the community, he said it's important that people have access.

"It is what the title calls it, death with dignity," he said.

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