Disabled Ontario woman pursues medically assisted death after being denied access to suitable housing


A 31-year-old disabled woman in Toronto is nearing final approval for medical assistance in dying (MAID) after her efforts to secure suitable housing were denied. The chronically ill woman, who uses a wheelchair due to a spinal cord injury, has been diagnosed with Multiple Chemical Sensitivities (MCS), which triggers rashes, difficulty breathing, and blinding headaches. Called hemiplegic migraines, the latter cause her temporary paralysis.

The chemicals that make her sick are cigarette smoke, air fresheners, and laundry chemicals. Because she is at risk of anaphylactic shock, a life-threatening allergic attack, she must carry EpiPens at all times.

In what would be better described as state-sponsored murder, the woman, identified in media reports by the pseudonym Denise, is seeking a medically assisted death because she cannot find an affordable apartment that does not aggravate her illness. Research has shown that people with MCS often improve in chemically cleaner environments.

Nov. 2017 protest in downtown Toronto to press for funding for social housing and emergency support for the homeless. (Ontario Coalition Against Poverty)

Denise has been driven to despair by a lack of suitable housing, with wheelchair access and cleaner air, that is the product of decades of austerity budgets for housing and social services enforced by all the establishment political parties.

Her only income is from the Ontario Disability Support Program (ODSP), which provides a measly $1,169 a month plus $50 for a special diet, in a city where the average one-bedroom apartment rent is more than $2,000 and the vacancy rate is only 3 percent.

With the help of supporters, Denise contacted 10 different agencies in Toronto over a six-month period to help her find affordable housing with reduced smoke and chemical exposure. “None of them were able to do anything meaningful in terms of getting me relocated, getting the discretionary emergency, or temporary housing and emergency funds,” she told CTV. “I’ve applied for MAID essentially … because of abject poverty.” 

Perversely getting approval for her medically assisted death is proving far easier for Denise than securing appropriate housing. First, she had to be deemed competent to make the decision by a psychiatrist. Then her medical history was reviewed and approved by one MAID provider. A second provider is now set to approve her final documents, including a power of attorney, funeral arrangements, and a DNR (Do Not Resuscitate) order.

Hoping for an earlier death, Denise has asked doctors to waive the 90-day waiting period for people like her who are “Track Two” cases, meaning their natural death isn’t imminent. Revised federal MAID legislation that came into effect March 17, 2021 expanded who could ask for assisted death. “Track One” patients are typically those with terminal cancer or other fatal diseases.


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