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June 1, 2021

Canada: A Beacon of Human Rights and The Rule of Law has doctors phoning people soliciting a peaceful death Part 1

Scott Stockdale

More by this author...

Open Letter to the Canadian Nation and the World:

The Brant Community Healthcare System (BCHS) in Brantford, Ontario Canada, has an assisted death program and they're eager to help with a peaceful death and you don't even have to request a death: the BCHS has a number of well-qualified, experienced doctors and at least one administrator who will call you – either on the phone or into one of their offices - and propose a peaceful death for your family member, while explaining why in their professional opinion it would be best for you and your family and your soon-to-be deceased family member. And your family member need not even be in life-threatening condition – as my mother Ruth Grummett wasn't when Lori Leighton, Manager of the Paris Willett Hospital Transitional Unit and Urgent Care at the Brant Community Healthcare Systems asked me if my mother had ever considered suicide. This was at the Paris Willett Hospital where my mother was a patient at the time and Ms. Leighton's office is on the same floor as the patients at the Paris Willett Hospital.

The following is a real live -or it was – case in point about just how eager the BCHS is to help.

In September of 2019, my then 85-year-old mother went to the Brantford General Hospital. She had fallen two weeks earlier and although she had back pain she continued to walk until one day she couldn't walk.

Later it was determined through tests that she had broken a couple of small bones in her back, one of which was pressing on the nerve in her back that goes down into the leg.

After a month or two they called and said she was on the rehabilitation floor getting ready to go home but she got pneumonia and went back to another hospital floor. On boxing day 2019 they sent her to Paris Willett hospital, in Paris Ontario. A few months into her stay, I was visiting my mother at the Paris Willett when Lori Leighton called me into her office for an interview and asked me if my mother had ever considered suicide. I said no and she asked me again a couple of minutes later and I said no. It is worth noting that at this time my mother was not and never had been in life-threatening condition, and she was fully conscious and coherent, able to carry on a normal conversation. It is ghoulish of the Brant Healthcare System staff to be pressuring a fully conscious person's son to authorize the hospital to put her to death without her consent when she was fully capable of making this decision for herself. Is this part of the protocol of the BCHS?

In fact, many months after the above incident, Ms. Leighton and members of her staff - without telling me - decided my mother was capable of making her own life and death decision. While the hospital was in lockdown due to Covid, the Paris Willett staff got my mother to sign a do not resuscitate (DNR) document, which means if she is dying the doctors will not try to save her but offer her a peaceful death instead. The Paris Willett hospital staff never did tell me that my mother had signed a DNR. I found out about it about a year later when my mother went to the Brantford General Hospital.

Meanwhile, a short time after Ms. Leighton popped the suicide question (I thought it was an assisted death program not a soliciting suicide program) I went to visit my mother in her room at the Paris Willet Hospital and she said her lower dentures were missing. It was either a nurse or a PSW who told me she had seen the dentures the previous night on a table next to my mother's bed. As the bed linen had not yet been changed, I asked the workers doing it to check thoroughly to make sure the dentures didn't fall into the bed or the bed linen somewhere. They did a thorough check – as they knew I was upset – and assured me the dentures were not there. I was on my knees and my belly checking under the bed at least three times to make sure the dentures weren't there.

About a week later it was a replay of the above incident only this time it was her glasses that were missing. A hospital employee told me she had seen my mother's glasses resting on the table next to her bed the night before and yet in the morning they were gone. During this whole time, my mother couldn't even get out of bed on her own.

I spoke to Myhail – (this is not the correct spelling of her name, but she is the top nurse practitioner at the Paris Willett. (When I called the Brantford General Hospital, they did not produce the information) the nurse practitioner who is the top medical official at the Paris Hospital – and told her my above-mentioned concerns. Despite the fact that I told her the dentures were seen in my mother's room the night before and they were missing in the morning, Myhail kept insisting that these things often get lost while staff is cleaning the meal trays. I asked her how that could happen because I'm not even in the healthcare field and I would know to check the refuse for the patients' items. She said: “Well, when you're on automatic pilot.”

This is not a response any reasonable adult would give to anyone at any time during his or her life – yet Myhail is the person the patients and their families depend on for their literally life-and-death healthcare needs. Would you feel comfortable having this person make your life-and-death decisions – keeping in mind that she works closely with Lori Leighton, manager of the Paris Willett and Urgent Care within the BCHS, who's office is directly across the hall from Myhail's at the Paris Willett Hospital? Where is the adult supervision these patients so desperately need? It appears that they're really home alone. My mother's long-time family doctor Dr. Hsiao insisted that there has to be a doctor in charge of the Paris Hospital – not a nurse practitioner – but when I went to see Myhail about a second opinion for my mother – she kept insisting that there was no doctor in charge – She was the top medical officer in charge of the Paris Willett Hospital.

Subsequently, I called BCHS CEO David McNeil's office – in the Brantford General Hospital. A woman who answered the phone said he was in a meeting. I told her the above -mentioned scenario about the dentures and the glasses and she asked if I had talked to the Nurse Practitioner about this. I said yes and the woman in Mr. McNeil's office asked what she said. I told her the nurse practitioner said: “Well, when you're on automatic pilot.”

The woman who answered Mr. McNeil's office phone assured me that she would forward my complaint to the hospital's complaints department, and she identified the person who would call me back. To date no one has ever called me back. I called a left a couple of messages with the person the woman in Mr. McNeil's said would call me about my concerns, but I hesitated to put too much pressure on hospital officials for fear they may retaliate against my mother, who was at their mercy. While visiting my mother almost everyday – often twice a day - for a month or two before Covid lockdown, I regularly noticed bruising on the faces of more than one of the male patients in wheelchairs. I asked one of the staff members and was told they probably fell. Now, about years later it occurs to me that the bruising on these men's faces was always next to the left eye and their injuries were such that at first glance there didn't appear to be much difference between them.

Tellingly, two weeks after I complained to Mr. McNeil's office my mother’s glasses turned up in her room. No one would answer the question: Where were they found? However, both lenses had deep gouges in them right in the line of sight such that the glasses were useless. I took them to two different optical stores and both attendants said the damage was deliberate. At Agincourt Optical the owner said the gouges in the lenses were quite deep.

It wasn't until some time later that I realized that when Lori Leighton brings someone into her office and gives her pitch for assisted death, she's not used to being told no. After all, what chance does a layperson have against a highly qualified, experienced medical administrator like Ms. Leighton, with the entire Brant Community Healthcare System supporting her.

When I went to Ms. Leighton's office to discuss my mother's missing items, she kept insisting these things get caught in the laundry. When I tried to tell her this is not what happened in this case our discussion became a monologue not a dialogue as Ms. Leighton became extremely hostile and she wouldn't let me speak. I left the office.

In December 2020 my mother, Ruth Grummett, was sent to Foxridge Long Term Care in Brantford. Late on the night of April 12, 2021, she was sent to Brantford General Hospital. I arrived the next day. She was in emergency but doing fine, asking me what we were going to do with her furniture.

Dr. Butts came into her room and said she had pneumonia, but she was not in life-threatening condition at that time. He said her heartbeat was 140 and her oxygen level in the 60's when they brought her in the previous night but now her heartbeat and oxygen level were acceptable. I asked and he confirmed that she was not in life-threatening condition now, but she was when they brought her in to the hospital late the night before.

The next day Dr. Singh called from the emergency department at the hospital and said that while at the Paris Willett Hospital my mother had signed a do not resuscitate (DNR) agreement. I said she would not have done this if she knew the meaning of it. I said we are Christians, and our religion teaches us we can't do that. Dr. Singh said the medical officials at the time determined she was of sound mind when she signed. I said I would like to have it changed and she said only my mother could have it changed because the medical officials at the time determined that my mother was capable of making this decision on her own. I told her the story of Lori Leighton asking if my mother ever considered suicide and Dr. Singh was very angry. “I can't comment on that she said.” I said, “I'm not asking you to comment,” and sometime in the conversation she asked me if I wanted my mother to live on life support machines for the rest of her life. I said no, just long enough for her to get over the hump. I wondered then and still do why Dr. Singh was making these comments to me about the DNR and living on life support when my mother wasn't even in life threatening condition. Moreover. it is very telling that in the fall of 2019 they were asking me to approve an assisted death for my mother, without her knowledge. This means many months before they decided she was ok to make a decision on the DNR herself, they had decided she wasn't ok to make a decision about “suicide”, so they were asking for my permission. If I had agreed to it my mother would have been killed without her knowledge and the knowledge that her son had authorized it – on the professional opinion of hospital staff of course. What more do you need? I mean as a layperson what do I know?

Meanwhile, back at the Brantford General Hospital, I visited my mother in the hospital two days later because I didn't know you had to book one day in advance, so I booked the following day for late morning. As I was preparing to go to the hospital, I got a call which showed Brantford General Hospital on my cell phone. The woman on the call said my mother had a temperature and so I couldn't visit that day. I thought this a little odd, so I called and spoke to the nurse responsible for my mother's care and she said my mother didn't have a temperature and after I asked, she said my mother never did have a temperature that day. The nurse said I could visit and I did.

They next day, when I told my mother she had signed a DNR she was outraged saying: “They didn't explain it to me properly.”

I got the nurse and she determined my mother was capable of making her own decision at the present time, and my mother requested they change it to full procedures available to resuscitate. The nurse assured me that she changed the document on the computer to give my mother access to full resuscitation procedures. My mother also asked the nurse this question and the nurse replied yes.

Why was Dr. Singh even bringing this issue up when my mother wasn't in life-threatening condition? I told her I didn't agree with this but she said my mother has to change it not me. And she asked me if I would like her to go and talk to my mother. I said: “No, that would leave us in the same hole we're in now.”

After a day in emergency my mother was sent to a regular room in the hospital on April 13, 2021. This is a clear indication that she wasn't in life-threatening condition.

I visited and she was doing fine after arriving at the hospital late on Monday April 12, 2021. I visited often and she was planning to get physiotherapy back at the Long-Term Care facility so she could start walking a little and go home. Both at the Paris Hospital and at the Long-Term Care facility a year later she showed me she could stand up from her wheelchair on her own and hold on to a bar on the wall and keep standing. I visited her every other day at the hospital and she was doing fine and in a normal state of mind.

In fact, I wasn't the only one who thought she was doing fine. The hospital called me on Wed. April 21, 2021, and said they were planning to send her back to the Long-Term Care facility the next day by taxi and the nurse asked me over the phone: “Will you people be able to afford a taxi?” I find this comment defies logic as the entire staff dealing with my mother's care knew I was regularly driving up from Toronto to visit her and it is a five-minute drive from the Brantford General Hospital to Fox Ridge Long Term Care. It costs a lot more to commute from Brantford to Toronto than it does for a 5-minute taxi ride. Obviously, the nurse's comment had nothing to do with the facts: it was a gratuitous attack and because I had probably never even met this nurse, she was schooled to have this attitude toward me and my mother. Dear Reader, take my word for it: I don't look like a homeless person.

I said if we have to, we have to – so in other words we will pay no problem. Meanwhile the hospital said they would call me the next day when they were sending her by taxi. Tellingly they didn't call so I went up there and they said they expected her to die that day, Thursday, April 23, 2021. Dr. Kielstra said she swallowed something the wrong way and got pneumonia. I went in her room where she had an oxygen mask on and her intake was in the 80's and her heart rate was 100. I could see these readings on the machines for myself. These readings are far from life-threatening condition so why did they expect her to die that day? When I called out to my mother, she opened her eyes and looked at me with a focused look, not a blank stare. I couldn't help but notice that my mother had bruising next to her left eye from below the eye to above it, in the same location I had noticed the male patients in wheelchairs had bruising when I saw them at the Paris Willett Hospital. I asked staff members about the bruising on my mother's face and they said they didn't know: she must have been hitting her head against the bed rail. However, the bed rail had thick padding on it - probably for the patients' safety- and of course all the staff would know this. Moreover, they would also know that she couldn't move well enough to thrust her head forcefully against the bed rail.

On the Friday April 23, 2021, when I got there mid-morning the nurse or PSW said my mother had responded in words to her that morning saying, “Oh pain”, with regard to the needle they had in her hand for the IV drip. Meanwhile my mother had improved from Thursday and her oxygen was 90 and heart rate 80, which is normal. In fact, she had improved so much that hospital staff took off her the oxygen mask and used nostril inserts which administer less oxygen than the mask.

Tellingly, there was a Covid outbreak on her floor and no visitors were allowed but they let me in on compassionate grounds because they had determined that my mother was probably going to die that same day. This while her vital signs were normal and I saw them for myself as the oxygen machine and the machine to monitor her heart, which had clearly visible readings anyone could see. When I was leaving my mother's hospital room that Friday afternoon, Dr. Kielstra, the doctor on the floor responsible for my mother's care, said: “This will be your last visit.”

Later, I realized that this comment had nothing to do with my mother's medical condition at that time as her oxygen intake was 90 and her heartbeat 80.

That Friday evening Dr. Abayomi Ajayi – whom I later had it confirmed is the head of the critical care unit at the Brantford General Hospital – called me asking my permission to give my mother a peaceful death. He agreed with me that her oxygen intake was 90 and her heartbeat 80 but he said: “I see this all the time – they rally for a couple of days and then they die. Death is my business.”

He also said if she continued to live, she would have to live in the hospital for the rest of her life – this two days after they were going to send her back to long term care and her vital signs were normal and they didn't mention any other medical complications. He kept saying: “Well we've done all that we can for her,” as though this is a reason to kill a person not in life-threatening condition who wants to live. Dr. Ajayi seems to have no doubt that expediency trumps life. Moreover, she had only been in this state for two days when Dr. Ajayi and his staff decided it was time for her to die.

He also said: “She's not responsive.” I said that's not true. When I was there today the nurse told me she spoke to her. Moreover, when I called out to her she opened her eyes and looked at me with a normal look: not a glazed stare. I couldn't believe I was hearing this.

Then Dr. Ajayi said: “I'm telling you right now that she's not going to critical care.” He said this knowing she had a document authorizing full resuscitation procedures: that's why he had to call and get my permission to give her a peaceful death. Thus, if there's no way she's going to critical care then the doctors would either have to make sure she didn't survive resuscitation or kill her after she did.

Subsequently, when I presented my above -mentioned scenario with only two options to a lawyer on the telephone, I asked him if he could think of any other options. He remained silent. His silence spoke volumes. I also asked a senior law clerk with over 30 years in the business - who at one point in his career had actually worked for the Canadian Medical Association (CMA) defending against wrongful death cases - if he could think of any other options and he said they could send her back to a room on a hospital floor. This of course, right out of resuscitation where she would have been in critical condition and would have died in a regular hospital room. This law clerk also told me no lawyer would take a wrongful death case against the hospital staff because settlement goes by the value of the expected life remaining and because my mother was 87 and in long-term care the courts would award little money even if the suit were successful. Christianity teaches that life is precious. The rule of law puts a dollar value on it.

Moreover, the law clerk said the Canadian Medical Association (CMA) always defends these suits in court and they keep the case going for years because they can afford to because they have unlimited resources – taxpayers' money.

At one point in the conversation with Dr. Ajayi I said that doctor (Kielstra) told me the critical care unit has the option of overriding the signed form of the patient or their next of kin and he said “Ya but we don't like to do that,” for obvious reasons – they may at some later date have to justify their conduct and at this point my mother wasn't in life threatening condition. They wanted to kill her but they wanted me to take responsibility for their actions.

At some point in the conversation, I told Dr. Ajayi that we were Christians and we can't do that: authorize the death of a person (because we realize we are not God).

At the end of the call, I said to Dr. Ajayi: “I’m taken aback by the urgency of this call,” keeping in mind that Dr. Ajayi has already acknowledged that my mother's heart rate was 80 and oxygen intake 90 – not significantly different from yours Dear Reader.

It appears he was taken aback by my comment. He said: “Well the critical care department asked me to call you.”

This is very disingenuous of Dr. Ajayi as he is the head of the department he deflected responsibility on for requesting permission to kill my mother when she wasn't in life-threatening condition and had actually spoken to a nurse the very same day. Dr. Ajayi was asking my permission – not to kill her but to give her a peaceful death. I mean why wait until it's too late.

All weekend I was calling and each time the nurse who was responsible for my mother's immediate health care needs, told me my mother's oxygen was 90 and heartbeat 80, fairly normal. At one point she said: “She is resting peacefully in bed.”

During at least one of these calls over the weekend, I spoke to Dr. Kielstra the doctor on the hospital floor responsible for my mother's care. She said, “Now Dr. Ajayi has spoken to you,” as though it is right and proper that Dr. Ajayi has the last word on who would live or die, regardless of medical facts; and puzzling though this is, Dr. Kielstra didn't have a problem with this.

Dr. Kielstra also said to me: “You say you are Christians. Well, I think God has a plan for your mother.”

Is it just a coincidence or Dear Reader do you also feel a little uncomfortable about the fact that God's plan and the plan of the critical care unit at the Brantford General Hospital are synonymous? I thought this kind of thinking only existed in a totalitarian regime, not a liberal democracy, a beacon of Human Rights and the rule-of-law, to the entire world, as the Trudeau government claims Canada to be.

I called Monday April 26, mid-morning and the nurse said her heartbeat was 100 and her oxygen intake was in the 80's. I find in the 80's suspicious as they're not giving an exact number which leads me to believe it was the high 80's. If it was in the low 80's they would have been more likely to say so.

Keep in mind, that on Friday April 23, Dr. Kielstra told me: “This will be your last visit.”

On Monday mid-afternoon, I was understandably shocked when at 2:18 p.m. I received a call from Dr. Rabbi at the Brantford General Hospital telling me that my mother's condition had deteriorated and she wanted my permission to give her a peaceful death. It is worth noting that this call shows up as “Brantford General Hospital” on my cell phone. I said no I can't do that and she told me how much it pains her and the other hospital staff to see her suffering, gasping for air when they could give her a peaceful death. This is the crux of the hospital staff's sales pitch for a peaceful death. And believe me I felt the pain and it's intense. The thought of acquiescing to Dr. Rabbi's sales pitch flashed through my mind but I never contemplated it. I said I can't do that. Can you imagine living for the rest of your life with the knowledge that you authorized your mother's death?

I wasn't at home when Dr. Rabbi reached me on my cell phone in the above-mentioned scenario and I missed a call on my cell phone from a private number. Assuming it was the hospital I called at 3:01 pm, spoke for about four minutes and then received an incoming call from a private number which lasted a little over 10 minutes. Because I was upset and anyway a layperson is not playing detective at the best of times, I am fairly certain it was the second call at 3:01 pm whereby Dr. Rabbi again asked me for permission to give my mother a peaceful death and I again said no. I had had a chance to think about it by this time and I realized that I couldn't say yes because that's not what my mother wanted and because it's not up to me to play God over someone's life even if the state gives me permission to do so. This may also be because “Death is not my business.” These are Dr. Ajayi's words, not mine.

Dr. Rabbi then said in a loud voice filled with emotion – I suspect that like Lori Leighton before her, she is not used to anyone saying no to her after such a powerful sales pitch - “Scott, your mother is dying. Her whole body is shutting down. She only has a couple of hours to live.”

I said: “But I talked to the nurse this morning and she said her oxygen intake was in the 80's,” (because pneumonia was her only potentially fatal disease. She had never had a heart attack).

Dr. Rabbi said: “Well it's in the 70's now.” During these conversations Dr. Rabbi kept saying, “We didn't expect her to make it through the weekend.”

This despite the fact that all weekend long the nurse responsible for my mother's care gave me her oxygen and heart readings and they were 90 for oxygen and 80 for heartbeat – normal. The nurse also said my mother was resting peacefully, so without “divine” intervention, her chances of survival were excellent.

Considering that my mother's oxygen level was, according to Dr. Butts in the emergency department, in the 60's when she was first brought to the hospital, 70's is still not life-threatening condition. At some point either Dr. Rabbi or one of the others asked if I would like to be there for my mother's death. I don't know what my answer was, but I was thinking what would be the point? She would be unconscious and suffering and it would do her no good for me to be there and I didn't want this to be my last memory of my mother.

Moreover, it was well into rush hour GTA traffic and I live on the east side of the city so it would have taken me several hours to get there and I was so upset I would have been a danger to other drivers on the road. They couldn't have picked a worse possible time to call with this news. And they were well aware that I live in Toronto.

Of course, then and now I wondered how she could go so quickly from stable condition to dying, Dr. Rabbi stating that her whole body was shutting down, in a matter of a few hours. Yes, I was constantly fed the meme by various hospital staff that a person that age can take a turn for the worse suddenly but put in this context it's not easy to swallow.

That evening I didn't call because I thought if they perform the medical procedures properly, she should survive and if they don't there's nothing I can do about it anyway. If her whole body is shutting down or not, with critical care doctors at the hospital so sure she was dying there is no way she was going to live anyway. As the hours went by, I was thinking she must be ok because Dr. Rabbi said her whole body was shutting down and she only has a couple of hours to live, and yet we were now many hours past the time Dr. Rabbi made this statement and I'd heard nothing from the hospital.

Needless to say, it was a shock when I got a call from the hospital at either 12:30 or 1:30 am the next morning April 27, 2021, informing me my mother had died. I thought about what a struggle these doctors would have had because she wasn't in life-threatening condition and she would have fought to the bitter end for her life. I also wondered why if as Dr. Rabbi said at around 3 pm in the afternoon that my mother's whole body was shutting down why did it take at least nine and possibly ten more hours for her to die and did she initially survive resuscitation?

On the late afternoon of April 28, 2021, the day after she died her former family doctor, Dr. Hsiao called my cell phone. I missed the call but called back and talked to him about an hour later. In hindsight I find this call odd because in a previous discussion in March 2020– I booked a visit to his office on my mother's health card at his direction – he explained to me that my mother was no longer under his care and hadn't been since she entered hospital in September 2019. However, his office is right across the street from the hospital.

After the usual condolences and introductory talk, Dr. Hsiao said: “They did all that they could for your mother.” (Where have I heard that phrase before Dear Reader”?). I told him about Dr. Ajayi calling me requesting permission to give my mother a peaceful death while at the same time acknowledging that her oxygen intake was 90 and her heartbeat 80. I then said and I quote: “Well that was their aim and it appears that's what happened.”

Dr. Hsiao became very emotional. He said: “Don't say that! You're just saying that because you're emotional.”

If Dr. Hsiao really believed his own statement, why did he feel the need to censor my speech and why was he so emotional - I always made sure I spoke to hospital staff in a measured tone. Why didn't he believe his own statement that I was just a grieving relative expressing my pain and my intimation couldn't possibly have any credibility. I say intimation because if you read my above -mentioned statement, at no time did I accuse anyone of doing anything.

I also find it telling that after reaching me on my cell phone in the park on April 26 to tell me my mother was dying and requesting my permission to give her a peaceful death – this was late afternoon – the hospital staff made several calls to my cell phone during this time – the hospital staff stopped calling my cell phone and instead left a series of messages on my home phone, knowing at least after the first call that I was not at home. They didn't bother to call my cell phone as they had done several times several hours earlier. Also, there would be a record and I think even a recording of the cell phone calls. I didn't actually hear these messages until I played them after she died.

I called the hospital in mid-week about May 26, 2021, to find out how to retrieve my mother's medical records. The hospital official said they were $30 plus it may be extra if extra pages are required. And yes, I can afford the $30. I asked if there was a time limit to get the records and he said no but I needed to show I was an executor of my mother's will. As this was going to take time. I asked if I needed the records one year from now would they still be there and he said yes, they don't throw them out. A few days later a letter I had not requested arrived from the hospital.

Unlike all the other letters I had received from the Brant Community Healthcare Systems, my name and address on the letter from the hospital is hand-written, in black magic marker, all capital letters in name and address. Inside the envelope is a form letter and the last clause says:

"I hereby waive any and all claims against the Brant Community Health Care System in connection with disclosure of this personal health information."

In law they use the standard Cui Bono to gauge the veracity of a defendant's testimony: it means “who benefits.”

It certainly wasn't me or my mother and Dear Reader I don't think it will be you when you find yourself in such a Kafkaesque vice. Yes, I meant vice not vise.

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