Introduction

Webcast archive: Interview with Gabriel Bouchard

This week, we discuss the story of Gabriel Bouchard, a man who is ending his own life due to negligence in the medical & social service systems.

Webcast archive: Interview with Gabriel Bouchard

In this episode of Euthanasia & Disability, Amy Hasbrouck and Christian Debray discuss:

  • Interview with Gabriel Bouchard
  • Day of Mourning

Please note that this text is only a script and that our webcast contains additional commentary.

INTERVIEW WITH GABRIEL BOUCHARD

  • Gabriel Bouchard, the former director of the Montreal Metropolitan Association of Organizations for Disabled Persons is currently starving himself to death at a local hospital
  • He does not call this a suicide, but “letting himself die”
  • Bouchard is 57 years old, and has done social justice work for the past 35 years. He has a mobility impairment and chronic pain.
  • He says he’s been fragile throughout his life. He had a heart attack in his 40s, and developed spinal stenosis at the age of 40, which causes chronic and severe back pain.
  • Five years ago his condition began to deteriorate, with muscle weakness and fatigue. He has not received a clear diagnosis.
  • When he decided to let himself die, he was living in a second-floor apartment, with 22 steps up. He used a manual wheelchair to get around, but in the end he could no longer climb the steps to his apartment.
  • He had to stop working in October of 2014 because of lack of energy and concentration.
  • The Commission on Health and Social Services offered home health aides to help with housework, but he didn’t feel he could accept, because he believed the workers were underpaid and exploited.
  • He said: “I found myself before God with two questions: ‘Gabriel, would you prefer to leave this world with a memory of a man who gave 35 years of his life to social services? … of a man who is proud of what he’s done, even very proud. Then again, Gabriel, would you prefer to leave this world in fifteen years with the memory of a man who finished his life degraded.  I have no one in  my life, I have no support.  I find myself in extreme poverty and in decline.  To leave with the memory of done my duty is even better.  Gabriel, you’ll go out happy with what you’ve done.’”
  • He feels his decision is well-considered. Helping others helps his own self esteem.
  • He said that, if he had a liveable income (a little above the poverty line), if he had the ability to control his personal care, he probably wouldn’t have wanted to die.
  • He was never diagnosed with a terminal illness; not having a diagnosis means he doesn’t know what’s in store for him.
  • Also, it means his condition is not dealt with by the social service system, so he falls in the cracks.
  • Since he became disabled three years ago:
  • No one has told him he’d be better off dead
  • No one has encouraged him to refuse medical treatment.
    • He considered suicide twice during the 1990s. He changed his mind with the help of a good psychiatrist.  Also, he was still young, in good health and had energy.
    • He fasted for two weeks at home. Then he went to the emergency room, because he wanted to die in a more secure environment.  He was afraid that a psychiatrist would diagnose him as being depressed.  He was in the ER for a day and a half, and saw 2 psychiatrists and 3 doctors, who all decided he was competent.  He said that during this process:
  • He had a physical exam
  • No one offered to help him improve his living situation (e.g. find an accessible apartment).
  • Neither the doctors nor the psychiatrists offered suicide prevention services
  • His pain has been well controlled.
  • He did not receive grief counselling or rehabilitation services
  • He did not receive depression screening or treatment.
  • He was not screened by adult protective services to detect signs of abuse.
    • He told the doctors that a woman who had killed her children had been allowed to let herself die in a hospital, so he should have the same right.
    • The doctors explained to him the dying process; that once his blood sugar level would descend below 1.5 he would fall into a coma. Then the staff would simply let him die.
    • In his opinion, a non-disabled person would not have been allowed to let him or herself die.

DAY OF MOURNING

  • On March 1st, the Autism Self-Advocacy Network (ASAN) is organizing a Day of Mourning to commemorate autistics and other people with disabilities who have been murdered by their parents and caregivers.
  • ASAN states: “In the past five years, over seventy people with disabilities have been murdered by their parents.”
  • “These acts are horrific enough on their own. But they exist in the context of a larger pattern. A parent kills their disabled child. The media portrays these murders as justifiable and inevitable due to the “burden” of having a disabled person in the family. If the parent stands trial, they are given sympathy and comparatively lighter sentences, if they are sentenced at all. The victim is disregarded, blamed for their own murder at the hands of the person they should have been able to trust the most, and ultimately forgotten. And then the cycle repeats.
  • “For the last four years, ASAN, ADAPT, Not Dead Yet, the National Council on Independent Living, the Disability Rights Education & Defense Fund, and other disability rights organizations have come together at local vigils across the country to mourn those losses, bring awareness to these tragedies, and demand justice and equal protection under the law for all people with disabilities.
  • There will be live and virtual events to observe the day including:
    • A Twitter campaign with the hashtag #DDoM2015
    • A virtual vigil on Google hangouts-on-air. Visit the website at https://sites.google.com/site/dayofmourning2015virtualvigil/home