‘Felt like criminals’: Woman wheeled outside local hospital for assisted-death assessment
Covenant Health apologized to the family of an Edmonton woman that was wheeled out of a hospital to receive an assisted-dying assessment.
Doreen Nowicki was diagnosed with amyotrophic lateral sclerosis (ALS)—a disease that paralyzes the body. She deteriorated fast, and in May 2017 decided she wanted a medically assisted death.
“We tried to talk her out of it, but to no avail,” her husband, Terry Nowicki, told CTV News.
Her family tried to get Nowicki into a number of hospitals before she was given a palliative bed at the Catholic-run Edmonton General Continuing Care Centre.
Covenant Health does not allow assisted-dying or assessments for it on site; but Nowicki was frail and immobile, so she was given an exemption. However, an hour before Alberta Health Services arrived, her exemption was cancelled.
Nowicki was put in a wheelchair and wheeled out of the building to have the meeting on the street.
“It ended up with my three daughters taking her out of bed, across the street to some benches,” Nowicki told CTV News.
Her husband says it was a cold and windy day, with cars and people passing by.
“Where’s the dignity and respect in that? We really felt like criminals,” Michele Emmanuel, one of her daughters, said. “She was crying, my sisters were crying.”
Covenant Health issued a public apology this week. It read, in part:
“We wish to offer our deepest apologies and condolences to the Nowicki family. What they experienced during a very difficult time in their lives was not appropriate and does not reflect our commitment to the mission and values of Covenant Health. We believe every patient deserves to be treated with compassion and respect. That did not happen in this case.”
Shanaaz Gokool, the CEO for Dying with Dignity Canada, told CTV News the family was treated poorly “at the most vulnerable time of their life.”
She calls for people to “be able to access assisted dying whether they’re in a hospital, a hospice a long-term place. These are all facilities that receive public funds to provide public health care.”
Nowicki died by assisted-death at another care facility in June 2017.
With files from Nicole Weisberg and The Canadian Press