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'I'm so broken': Grieving family speaks out after B.C. cancer patient awaiting treatment chooses MAID

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Kathleen Carmichael says B.C.’s health-care system let her family down. Her partner, Dan Quayle, opted for a medically assisted death 13 days ago.

It was a choice he made after waiting for chemotherapy and treatment that didn’t come fast enough.

"The oncologist would come in and say, 'We’re pretty backlogged right now so hang in there,” said Carmichael Tuesday from her home near Victoria.

But Quayle ran out of time. The 52-year-old grandfather – described as jolly, big-hearted and playful – died on Nov. 24.

Quayle was diagnosed with esophageal cancer months after first feeling ill.

While he waited for treatment, his health declined, which led him to choose MAID. The decision was excruciating for his family, including Shayleen Griffiths, his stepdaughter.

"(It's) heartbreaking for my mum, for his kids, my kids — it’s devastating,” she said Tuesday from her Campbell River home. “And I know this isn't the only story, so it just feels heavy for everyone.”

The family is speaking out, not to be critical of any one doctor, but of the system — hoping others won’t have to endure what they’ve had to go through.

“I’m so broken,” said Carmichael through tears, as she held a card with condolences.

The family’s pain emerges as numbers reported on radiation therapy reveal that only 75 per cent of patients in B.C. are receiving it within the recommended 28-day benchmark — lower than the 77 per cent in May when the province started sending patients to the U.S. for radiation due to long waits in B.C.

“I’ve directed the health minister to work with the cancer agency to address wait times that are unacceptable for British Columbians," Premier David Eby said when CTV News asked about the delays Tuesday.

The province has hired 61 oncologists and 27 radiation therapists since April. The health minister says those waiting longer than the benchmarks for radiation are being prioritized.

“Those numbers — the people waiting 28 days are going to fall — because there are fewer people now on the waitlist,” said Dix Tuesday.

It was chemotherapy that Dan Quayle was told would extend his life. Wait times for that treatment haven't been released by the province yet.

Those affected most by waits for chemotherapy don’t need stats, however, to gauge the impact of delays.

“It always just felt like we were waiting, and waiting, and waiting. And I think early detection could have given my Dan some more time,” said an emotional Carmichael.

Instead of looking forward to that time, Quayle's grieving loved ones are looking back, remembering a beloved family man.

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