Mother says doctor brought up assisted suicide option as sick daughter was within earshot

A St. Anthony, N.L., mother who says she was told assisted suicide is an option for her 25-year-old daughter wants an apology from Labrador-Grenfell Health.

Labrador-Grenfell Health willing to meet with Sheila Elson and adult daughter's care team

Sheila Elson's daughter, Candice Lewis, has several medical conditions, such as spina bifida, cerebral palsy and chronic seizure disorder. Elson is upset that last November, a doctor in St. Anthony, N.L., told her assisted suicide was an option for her daughter. (Gavin Simms/CBC)

A St. Anthony, N.L., mother who claims she was told by a doctor that assisted suicide was an option for her adult daughter says she wants an apology from Labrador-Grenfell Health, in part because the 25-year-old could hear the conversation.

I'm not going to let them walk over her and mistreat her anymore.- Sheila Elson

Sheila Elson's 25-year-old daughter, Candice Lewis, has several medical conditions, including spina bifida, cerebral palsy and chronic seizure disorder.

During a hospital stay in St. Anthony last November, when Lewis was very sick, Elson said a doctor told her that her daughter was dying and that she had the option to end her life.

Doctor suggests assisted suicide to mother of child with several medical conditions

6 years ago
Duration 1:01
Sheila Elson of St. Anthony wants an apology from Labrador-Grenfell Health after a doctor told her to consider assisted suicide to end her daughter's life

"His words were 'assisted suicide death was legal in Canada,'" she told CBC. "I was shocked, and said, 'Well, I'm not really interested,' and he told me I was being selfish."

According to Elson, Lewis was within earshot when the doctor made the comment — which she said was quite traumatic for her daughter to hear.

Pattern of mistreatment

After talking with some social workers, Elson was told she wouldn't be able to make a decision on ending her daughter's life, even if she wanted to, and that it would have to be made by Lewis herself, who is capable of verbally communicating.

Lewis is capable of verbally communicating and is an avid painter. Her mother says hearing her doctor discuss the option of assisted suicide has been traumatic. (Submitted by Sheila Elson)

Elson said the incident is the most recent example of alleged mistreatment from Labrador-Grenfell Health. In one example, she said, a nurse referred to her daughter as a "frequent flyer" at the hospital — which Elson said was insensitive to say about someone with so many health issues.

"She's sick. [When] she gets sick, you take her to the hospital," Elson said. "Whether she's there 10 times a week or 25 times a day, she's still a human being."

Wants apology

Elson said that after the doctor spoke about the assisted suicide option last November, she started pressing for a response from Labrador-Grenfell Health.

She said she was told the doctor didn't intend to cause her distress, but Elson said she still wants a formal apology from the health authority.

"I didn't want another family going through what we went through. People like her are being mistreated, and enough is enough," she said. "I'm not going to let them walk over her and mistreat her anymore."

CBC contacted Labrador-Grenfell Health to respond to Elson's claims, and the authority said it could not discuss details of the case, but had been in contact with Elson and has offered her the opportunity to meet with members of her daughter's care team at her earliest convenience.

With files from Gavin Simms