A 41-year-old Canadian man’s choice to undergo assisted suicide in August 2019 was used as blog fodder by an anti-abortion group based out of England.
Sean Tagert first drew media coverage in September 2018, when he spoke to the Canadian Broadcasting Corporation about the trouble he faced maintaining his standard of living. Tagert, who lived with Amyotrophic Lateral Sclerosis (ALC, aka Lou Gehrig’s Disease), had put together a system enabling him to remain at home as well as communicate with others and continue sharing custody of his 11-year-old son.
However, his health care provider Vancouver Coastal Health was only willing to pay for 15 hours of independent care for him per day. While the company later increased its offer to 20 hours of care a day, it also recommended moving Tagert to live in a separate residential care facility in that city. Tagert’s doctor rejected the suggestion, calling it a “death sentence.”
On August 6, 2019, Tagert underwent a medically-assisted death. According to a Facebook post confirming his passing:
Ensuring consistent care was a constant struggle and source of stress for Sean as a patient. While he succeeded, with the help of many, in piecing together a suitable care facility in his own home (including an expensive saliva-suction machine, needed to prevent him from choking, obtained with the help of donations raised online), gaining the 24-hour care he required was extremely difficult, especially as the provincial government refused to fully fund home care. The few institutional options on hand, Sean pointed out, would have offered vastly inferior care while separating him from his family, and likely would have hastened his death. We would ask, on Sean’s behalf, that the government recognize the serious problems in its treatment of ALS patients and their families, and find real solutions for those already suffering unimaginably.
But in writing about Tagert’s case, the British advocacy group the Society for the Protection of Unborn Children focused more on its own opposition to assisted-suicide laws, claiming that if they were enacted in England that “it could lead to a reduction in the quality of healthcare and risks promoting death as an alternative to medical treatment.”
The Canadian Supreme Court struck down laws against medically-assisted suicide in 2015. In 2016, the country’s parliament passed Bill C-14, which allowed patients who meet specific medical guidelines and are capable of informed consent to undergo the procedure.
According to a report published by the Canadian government in April 2019, 6,749 people chose a medically-assisted death between December 2015 and October 2018, which accounts for 1.12 percent of total deaths in the country during that period. The majority of people undergoing the procedure range between 56 and 90 years of age. Between June 2016 and October 2018, around 500 patients who received medically-assisted deaths were dealing with neurodegenerative diseases like ALS at the time of their passing.