Health Care funds disabled dad’s assisted suicide

A Canadian father who could not received ongoing financial support for his costly healthcare has died following a medically assisted suicide.

Sean Tagert, 41, who suffered from amyotrophic lateral sclerosis (ALS) agreed to having his life ended after years of struggle to find adequate care.

His illness robbed him of the ability to move his body, eat, or speak, and he communicated via an eye-gaze computer. His mental acuity was unaffected.

When Tagert became incapacitated his doctors recommended 24-hour in-home care.

However, Tagert’s regional health authority only offered 15.5 hours of care a day. Eventually they increased their offer to 20 hours but Tagert still had to top it up by $263.50 per day.

He and his family continued to fight for coverage of a full day’s care.

“Hey everyone. I’ve been quiet lately because I’m just done, worn-out,” he wrote in a 25 July Facebook post.

“So last Friday I officially submitted my Medically assisted death paperwork …

“It’s been over a month since I submitted my appeal to the Vancouver Coastal Health patient care quality department. They didn’t even respond.”

He said earlier that day, two health officials came to his home and told his mother they were there to cut his funding for care hours.

On 6 August Tagert received a “medically-assisted death”.

The lethal medication can be self-administered, or administered by a doctor.

Full funding for the procedure is available for patients over the age of 18 who have been diagnosed with a terminal illness. The option is advertised in hospitals around Canada.

Tagert’s family wants the Canadian government to recognise the serious problems its treatment exposes ALS patients and their families to and asks it “find real solutions for those already suffering unimaginably.

“While he succeeded, with the help of many, in piecing together a suitable care facility in his own home … gaining the 24-hour care he required was extremely difficult, especially as the provincial government refused to fully fund home care.”

Going to a nursing home was not an option for him as the facilities in his province “would have offered vastly inferior care while separating him from his family [including his 11-year old son], and likely would have hastened his death” the post said.

Since Tagert’s death, Canadian commentators and palliative care physicians have called for changes in the way the country’s health system handles patients with complicated health needs.

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