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OPINION: 'Nebulous common good' hospital plan cruel to seniors

Assisted suicide likely preferable to wasting away in 'the gulag of some distant facility with a bad reputation,' writer says of new provincial legislation
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Those of us octogenarians lucky enough to have escaped the horrors of COVID in understaffed nursing homes were finally beginning to enjoy a near normal life this summer as a result of visits with friends and family, small outings, maybe even a concert or two.

But then the Ontario government’s plan to reform health care hit the airwaves.

Guess who the sacrificial lambs are? Same old, same old, literally this time again.

With understaffed hospitals closing services and ambulances lined up at ERs, the easiest solution is to move out those waiting for nursing home beds. We’re talking about the frail elderly who can no longer care for themselves at home.

Perhaps, the cynical calculation was that they would be dead or at least not capable of voting in the next election.

The plan could have merit, no one thrives in hospital, except that this will be a forced evacuation. We’re there because there are no vacancies in the nursing homes of our preference either because of family proximity or a history of  excellent care.

Now it’s off to the gulag of some distant facility with a bad reputation. If not, why would they have vacancies?

Those with family members in long-term care in their home community visit regularly. Most husbands or wives visit daily, some twice a day. These are also old people who would not be able to travel out of town.

Did those in Queen’s Park who drafted the legislation consider this cruel consequence?

Recently I’ve been watching an invasion of very small ants into my hummingbird feeder.

Every evening, I open the lid to find a clump of these microscopic creatures rafting together to escape drowning in the syrup. When scooped out on the grass, they scurry away, at least most do. There is a common effort to problem solve in order to survive. I doubt if it’s based on age.

Were the government to ask us seniors for suggestions we would have plenty.

Put more money into home care so we don’t need to be in institutions. Build new models of smaller units with more consistent staffing, pay family members to care for us so that they don’t have to work two jobs. This would be for starters.

Don’t sacrifice us to some nebulous common good. Don’t effect change on the backs of the sick and demented.

This smacks of ageism at its worst. Sexism, too, as women live longer than men. We are not pawns to be shunted out of sight just because we can’t speak up for ourselves.

We shouldn’t have to walk out on a metaphorical ice floe unless we choose to. Given the choice between ending our days in some overcrowded, distant, low-grade nursing home or opting for assisted suicide, many of us would reluctantly choose the latter.

What Ontario is doing by this proposed legislation could be viewed as a form of eugenics.

It shouldn’t have to come to this.

Maybe our government can learn from the ants. If not, let’s all work together for a more positive, humane and equitable solution.

About the author: After 40 years in the classroom, in retirement Elizabeth O'Connor shifted her focus to promoting peace, the contribution and needs of older people in the community and, of course, to walking her small dog.