But staffers have recently raised concerns to hospital leaders about the program's direction under Dr. Jeffrey Morgan, its surgical director since 2016, according to the Chronicle and ProPublica. Morgan did not respond to requests for comment.
Saskatoon police said in an emailed statement that officers are trained to “preserve the scene, question witnesses and collect information” quickly in response to a sudden death. That way, if the death is determined to be suspicious, no information is compromised.
Police have passed the case on to Crown prosecutors to decide if any charges will be laid.
Dunn said police officers he dealt with on the day of his wife’s death treated him with respect and compassion — one of them even let him use their cell phone to call his youngest child to give him the news while he was still in custody.
Dunn said his wife should have been eligible for the Medical Assistance in Dying program, and that police should never have needed to be involved.
“I don’t know why she was (refused),” he said. “There’s something wrong, and it needs to be fixed.”
Chmura pursued assisted dying when chronic pain from fibromyalgia became too much to bear. One of the criteria to be eligible for assisted death is to be suffering from a “grievous and irremediable medical condition.”
Dunn said his wife was denied access to assisted death because her death was not considered “reasonably foreseeable” — one of the necessary conditions laid out by the government.
But Dunn also said he has seen cases from other provinces where people with similar circumstances to his wife’s were approved.
“It’s not consistent,” he said. “The only difference that I could tell … is their age and province of residence.”
Dunn said being denied access to assisted dying added a frightening level of “unknown” to his wife’s case. He said she feared something going wrong if she attempted suicide, which might lead to a slow death in the hospital because of her do not resuscitate orders.
“Nothing changed other than she had to do it herself, and she didn’t know if it would work,” he said. “If she woke up, she would have probably tried it again. If she didn’t wake up, then that would have been … like two weeks, for her to die.”
According to Statistics Canada, there were 1,982 medically assisted deaths in the country during the first year the legislation was in effect.
The same report indicates there have been 77 requests for assisted death in Saskatchewan during the same time period, 29 of which received a medically assisted death.
During the first year, less than seven requests were declined in the province.
Dunn said after being denied, Chmura began making her own plans to take her life. In the end, being at home with him was what his wife wanted when she died, he said.
“It’s not about me … I was just doing what a loving husband would do,” he said. “I hated it, of course. I miss her every day. But … her quality of life just sucked.”