Canadian woman, 31, who applied for assisted suicide pauses request after well-wishers donate $65k to her

‘These patients can easily return to wellness if they are given the right environment to live. It’s a simple equation,’ doctor says

Gustaf Kilander
Washington, DC
Wednesday 01 June 2022 14:51 BST
Disabled woman applies for assisted suicide after not being able to find affordable housing

A 31-year-old woman who was conditionally approved for a medically assisted death after struggling to find safe affordable housing has said that her life has been turned around by support she received from telling her story.

The Toronto woman spoke to CTV News in April about her pending approval for medical assistance in dying (MAID). Using the pseudonym Denise, she said she applied partly because she was experiencing chemical sensitivities in her apartment that was filled with smoke and fumes that worsened her condition.

She said the support she has received - including thousands of dollars in donations from well-wishers - has “stabilized” her life.

“It’s ... mind-blowing and inspiring,” she said during a phone interview with CTV News. The outlet noted that “her voice sounded considerably stronger” than during their April conversation.

In April, she said she had tried to find and failed for months to find housing with cleaner air but gave up and was approved by two physicians for an assisted death.

She’s now found a temporary home where she isn’t struggling to breathe and her suffering has decreased. Her MAID application is now on pause, but Denise said she hasn’t cancelled her MAID application because she still suffers from painful chronic health problems that haven’t been properly handled.

But since her living situation isn’t permanent, she would need to move back to her apartment that’s making her condition worse if the hotel she’s now living in is booked.

Her story attracted international attention and a GoFundMe fundraiser set up by supporters has garnered more than $65,000 in donations from almost 1,000 people, with many also sending supportive emails.

“These are strangers saying they do not want this to happen. I am even struggling to find the words,” Denise said, adding that she’s now staying at a Toronto hotel that employs low-scented cleaning supplies. She also has windows overlooking a ravine, which lets in fresh air.

“I am no longer focusing on just survival,” she told the Canadian broadcaster. “Mentally, I am more clear to put things in place to put a more liveable life.”

She’s trying to find a place in long-term subsidized housing and wants to help others with similar issues.

One of Denise’s doctors, the medical director at the Environmental Health Clinic at Women’s College Hospital in Toronto, Dr Riina Bray, told CTV News that the “irremediable suffering” that meant Denise was eligible for MAID was solvable.

“These patients can easily return to wellness if they are given the right environment to live. It’s a simple equation,” she said.

Denise suffers from Multiple Chemical Sensitivities (MCS), which leads to rashes, breathing difficulties and headaches. Studies have shown that people with MCS often do better in chemically cleaner areas.

Denise is in a wheelchair following a spinal cord injury six years ago. Her income from Ontario’s Disability Support Program (ODSP) is $1,169 a month and $50 for special dietary needs. That income made it unfeasible for Denise to find a better apartment without smoke and chemicals.

In April, she told CTV News that she applied for MAID after several requests for subsidized apartments in better locations went nowhere. She said she applied for MAID “essentially, because of abject poverty”.

Two doctors approved the MAID application and a third asked her for funeral preparation documents.

Supporters argue that her case should be reviewed to understand why she was approved for MAID when what she needed was better living conditions.

Brock University Professor David Fancy told CTV News that “we’re calling for an investigation ... into physicians who are improperly applying the (MAID) legislation”.

Denise said doctors spoke to her about her medical issues and her suffering, not how they could be fixed.

“During the assessment, very little was focused on what services I had, what I needed to achieve some level of normal. Nothing was offered in terms of support,” she said.

In February, a woman suffering from MCS received a medically assisted death following several attempts to find a home away from smoke and chemicals.

According to Canadian statistics, at least 700,000 people in the country suffer from issues relating to sensitivities to chemicals.

If you are experiencing feelings of distress and isolation, or are struggling to cope, The Samaritans offers support; you can speak to someone for free over the phone, in confidence, on 116 123 (UK and ROI), email, or visit the Samaritans website to find details of your nearest branch. If you are based in the USA, and you or someone you know needs mental health assistance right now, call National Suicide Prevention Helpline on 1-800-273-TALK (8255). The Helpline is a free, confidential crisis hotline that is available to everyone 24 hours a day, seven days a week. If you are in another country, you can go to to find a helpline near you.

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