Best of AP — Honorable Mention

Latest

Revealing look at Canada’s troubled euthanasia system

Alan Nichols, left, is shown with his brother Gary on the eve of Alan’s euthanization in Chilliwack, British Columbia, Canada, in a July 2019 photo provided by Gary Nichols. Alan submitted a request to be euthanized and was killed despite concerns raised by his family and a nurse practitioner. The family reported the case to police and health authorities, arguing that he lacked the capacity to understand the process and was not suffering unbearably — among the requirements for euthanasia. “Alan was basically put to death,” his brother, Gary, says. (Courtesy Gary Nichols via AP) Alan Nichols had a history of depression and other medical issues, but none were life-threatening. When the 61-year-old Canadian was hospitalized in June 2019 over fears he might be suicidal, he asked his brother to “bust him out” as soon as possible. Within a month, Nichols submitted a request to be euthanized and he was killed, despite concerns raised by his family and a nurse practitioner. His application for euthanasia listed only one health condition as the reason for his request to die: hearing loss.

canada_AP_22199587618674_hm1.jpg

During the COVID-19 lockdowns, London-based AP medical writer Maria Cheng spent considerable time in her native Canada. While covering the pandemic from a global perspective, something caught her eye: individual tales of troubling euthanasia deaths in Canada that had spurred investigations and lawsuits.

Canadian media hadn’t really connected all those stories. But Cheng, who had written previously about euthanasia in Europe, saw a pattern: controversial deaths unlike ones she had covered elsewhere.

She set to work on what was happening and why so many families seemed shocked by their loved ones’ deaths. Extensive reporting,interviews and document searches revealed Canada had arguably some of the most lax euthanasia laws in the world,with fewer safeguards than many other countries with longer histories of medically assisted death.

Canada’s treatment of the disabled was especially an outlier,with people allowed to seek death simply because they are disabled. The situation has fostered recriminations from all corners — disabled advocates, the United Nations and even the pope.

Canada AP 22222579629092 1920i
Part of a medical request form for euthanasia filled out by Alan Nichols of Chilliwack, British Columbia, Canada, and provided by his brother, Gary Nichols. Alan Nichols, 61, had a history of depression and other medical issues, but none were life-threatening. His application for euthanasia listed only one health condition as the reason for his request to die: hearing loss. His family argues he lacked the capacity to understand the process and was not suffering unbearably — among the requirements for euthanasia. – Courtesy Gary Nichols via AP

Cheng and Detroit-based video journalist Mike Householder told the stories of families’ experience with euthanasia. Householder spent time in Ontario telling the story of a woman who was shocked that her father was accorded euthanasia within days of a fall. And Cheng obtained a copy of a form showing that one man who sought euthanasia listed just one condition for it: hearing loss. A family photo of Alan Nichols and an image of his form accompanied the story.

Contact us
FOLLOW AP