Edmonton Hospitals Suspected of Euthanasia
None Dare Call It Euthanasia: Evidence grows that patients are being
deliberately starved and dehydrated to death
Edmonton, Alberta, Canada (2001)
Report Newsmagazine, May 28,
Reproduced with permission.
The Elder Advocate of Alberta . . . says that if the
case does prove to be euthanasia, it will not be the first she has seen
documented. . . Far more common, however, she says, is euthanasia by failure
to feed or hydrate.
In Canada, animals are treated better than seniors, according to Irene
McNeilly of St. Paul, Alta., 100 miles northeast of Edmonton. She is angry
because of treatment her husband received in St. Therese Hospital in St.
Paul, prior to his death March 19. It was not only "callous and degrading,''
she alleges, but possibly ended in euthanasia. If so, it is just part of an
alarming trend, according to those who work with the elderly and infirm.
Keith McNeilly, 79, a native of Grenada, had worked most of his
professional life in rural Alberta. "His deep Christian faith enriched his
service to his fellow man in a very profound way,'' recalled colleague Dr.
Joseph Fernando in his eulogy. "He was a very generous and charitable man,
and he never refused help when help was asked of him.'' In recognition of
his service to the Catholic Church and his fellow man, Dr. McNeilly was
knighted in 1992 by the Order of the Holy Saviour and St. Brigitta of
Trouble began last September when Dr. McNeilly was rushed to University
Hospital in Edmonton after suffering a stroke. Paralyzed on one side, he was
alert but unable to speak. "The young female doctor was brutally frank with
me,'' Mrs. McNeilly recounts. "Standing at his bedside, she said, `He is 79
years old. Because of his past medical history I will not recommend any
drugs for his treatment. They are too expensive to healthcare.' I said, `I
will pay for them,' but she said, `There is no point. This is a major stroke
and he's not going to recover anyway.' He knew what was going on; he held my
hand so tight and tears rolled down his face. These people are so rude. I
worked with him 16 years; he always used to tell me, `Don't tell the
patients there is no hope. It is God who decides.'"
When Dr. McNeilly was moved to St. Therese Hospital, Mrs. McNeilly says,
the staff seemed ``rather negative and uncaring,'' as if he were ``one of
the many old men who had become useless and undeserving of the decent
treatment befitting a human being.'' For 11 days, she documents, he became
weaker as he was given intravenous liquids only; "no tube-feeding of
nutritious food.'' Finally given tube-feeding, he later pulled the tube out.
When Mrs. McNeilly pleaded with staff to replace it, she was told ``the
hospital had run out of tubes,'' but was ordering some in. Two days later
she called the hospital at 7 a.m., pleading for tube-feeding before she
spoke to her lawyer. By 8 a.m. a tube had been inserted.
Released in November, Dr. McNeilly was readmitted in March to St. Therese
Hospital with double pneumonia; antibiotics and morphine were administered.
When his condition improved, Mrs. McNeilly was puzzled about the continued
doses of morphine since it slows the heart, but was told it was ``doctor's
orders.'' ``I was constantly with him, day in and day out, as I was scared
of the morphine and alerted [by a nurse urging, during his first hospital
stay, `Just pull the tubes out and let him go.']'' Mrs. McNeilly slept in a
room adjoining her husband's with the door open so she could check on him
during the night.
"On March 19 at 6 a.m.,'' she reports, "my fears were confirmed that
strange and unexpected things had happened. I found my door closed, although
I had left it open. I heard Keith groan, as he did when he wanted me. I
heard footsteps going back and forth. Alarmed, I got up and found my door
closed. Then a nurse with `Mercy' on her name tag opened my door and said he
had just gone. She said, `We washed him, gave him morphine and ventilin, and
he's gone.' I was terribly shaken and cried. There was no oxygen mask on him
and this puzzled me. I questioned them why the door was closed, why the
morphine was given again without my permission, but no reply from them
Mrs. McNeilly has lodged a complaint with the College of Physicians and
Surgeons. Allan Sinclair, manager of health services with Lakeland Regional
Health Authority which is also investigating, says he has no knowledge of
any euthanasia ever practised in the region. The Elder Advocate of Alberta,
Ruth Adria of Edmonton (firstname.lastname@example.org),
says that if the case does prove to be euthanasia, it will not be the first
she has seen documented; in fact, she has charges in process. Far more
common, however, she says, is euthanasia by failure to feed or hydrate.
"Institutions literally don't want to spend the dollars on the care.
Everyone knows it's
going on, but it has to be articulated: when people can no longer feed
themselves, they are left to starve.'' On May 10, Ms. Adria distributed in
the Legislature a pamphlet on elder abuse seeking enforceable laws similar
to those in the U.S. with fines of $1,000 per day for weight loss,
malnutrition or bedsores.
Mrs. McNeilly's priest, Father Anthony O'Riordan, says he has also known
"a lot of instances of deliberate neglect where people are starved and
dehydrated to death. A utilitarian ethic is taking over,'' he says. "If life
is not convenient, take it. It's alarming, but pretty well hidden.''