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20-year-old BC man chooses 'Medical Assistance in Dying' after prolonged illness

MAID occurs when health authorities provide a drug to intentionally kill a person, upon their request. It is only available to certain patients.

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Roberto Wakerell-Cruz Montreal QC
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A 20-year-old man in British Columbia is opting for medical assistance in dying (MAID) after years of dealing with an undiagnosed medical condition.

MAID occurs when health authorities provide a drug to intentionally kill a person, upon their request. It is only available to certain patients.

The man, Eric Coulam, said he first started battling the disease after his mother's death to suicide in 2013.

"It began as minor symptoms. My stomach would hurt, I’d eat something, and then I would be sore, but then I’d eat the same thing again, and I wouldn’t be sore," Coulam said.

He said that he went to a doctor, where the doctor encountered a blockage while investigating his intestine and stomach with a scope.

"She (the doctor) got to a certain point and couldn’t go any further. She told me to drink the drink again and come back in a couple of days," Coulam said, according to Energetic City.

Coulam said he went back for a follow up, when the same issue occurred.

"She said it weird that she couldn’t go through, and it’s never happened before, but you can tell it’s blocked and this and that. She then signed the paper, and then she never investigated," he said. "They didn’t tell me to take laxatives or phone any GI (gastrointestinal) doctors."

He said that he had gone to the emergency room several times, but never got a diagnosis.

"[They said,] oh, it’s this, take these pills or take this, take these steroids. I just got so sick, and they weren’t diagnosing anything or even looking into it," Coulam said. "Nothing was moving through me. I kept eating, and eating and [my stomach] just ruptured because it wasn’t going anywhere."

The rupture caused septic fluid to enter his bloodstream, causing him to "go septic" and slip into a coma for two weeks.

Coulam is now in hospital battling several vital organ diseases. He has also lost his small bowel and suffers from chronic pain.

Coulam urged people with medical conditions to get a second opinion "because that's where I failed."

He said he first heard of MAID while at a hospital in Kelowna.

"One of the patients diagonal from me was getting a lot of visitors and looked very sick. A doctor came, left, and she was dead," Coulam said.

"I inquired about it, did some research, and asked my doctor about it."

"I sometimes lay there at night and get sad sometimes, but for the most part, I’m waiting for the day because I’m in lots of pain all the time. I’m on many meds just to be comfortable for a few hours."

According to the British Columbia government website, "Medical assistance in dying provides people, who are experiencing intolerable suffering due to a grievous and irremediable (incurable) medical condition, the option to end their life with the assistance of a doctor or nurse practitioner."

"Medical assistance in dying is provided only to legally eligible persons. To ensure this service is provided in a safe manner, a system of safeguards has been designed to protect vulnerable people and support all people to make an informed decision," the site says.

In order to be eligible to receive medical assistance in dying, a person must meet all of the following criteria:

  • Be eligible for health services publicly funded by a government in Canada, such as being registered or eligible for B.C.’s Medical Services Plan;
  • Be at least 18 years of age and capable of making decisions about their health;
  • Have made a voluntary request for medical assistance in dying that, in particular, was not made as a result of external pressure;
  • Have given informed consent to receive medical assistance in dying after being informed of the means that are available to relieve their suffering, including palliative care; and
  • Have a grievous and irremediable medical condition, which means:
    they have a serious and incurable illness, disease or disability;
    they are in an advanced state of decline that cannot be reversed; and
    that illness, disease or disability or that state of decline causes them enduring physical or psychological suffering that is intolerable to them and cannot be relieved under conditions that they consider acceptable.

Medical assistance in dying can only be provided to persons who can give consent. Consent through an alternate or substitute decision maker or through a personal advance directive is not applicable.

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