EXCLUSIVE: Canada’s push to euthanize veterans with PTSD is ‘disgusting, unacceptable and infuriating’, says female artillery gunner who spent six months on the front line in Afghanistan
- Kelsi Sheren enlisted in the Canadian military, aged 19, and was sent to Afghanistan – a harrowing experience that left her with severe PTSD
- She has since become a vocal opponent of Canada’s relaxed euthanasia laws – including to veterans with post-traumatic stress disorder
Army veteran Kelsi Sheren was a fresh-faced 19-year-old when she first set foot on the combat field in Afghanistan. It proved to be a life-altering experience.
Six months later the Canadian artillery gunner was ‘still shaking’ on a military helicopter heading home after witnessing one of her comrades being blown to pieces after he set off an IED in the field as their battalion moved from compound to compound.
‘That was my first exposure to watching someone die. And that was my first exposure to having to clean up what was left of someone,’ Sheren told DailyMail.com.
The experience, she says, ‘broke part of my brain’. It took witnessing that horrific death ‘for the reality of what we were doing to hit’. She was plagued by the memory of scrubbing her comrade’s remains off her hands – all the while ducking heavy fire.
Once home, she turned to therapy – and realized she was suffering from post-traumatic stress disorder.
Sheren made it her mission to help other veterans and has been an outspoken critic of the Canadian government’s relaxed attitude to euthanasia – including its push to make it available to veterans plagued by PTSD.
‘It’s disgusting and it’s unacceptable,’ she said, arguing that authorities would rather euthanize a soldier than foot the bill for their recovery.
Kelsi Sheren (pictured) was just 19 when she enlisted in the Canadian military. What she witnessed left her with PTSD
Canada has the world’s most permissive assisted suicide program. The country is on track to record some 13,500 state-sanctioned suicides in 2022, a 34 percent rise on the 10,064 in 2021, according to Canada’s Euthanasia Prevention Coalition’s analysis of official data.
Canada’s politicians are currently weighing whether to expand access to include children and the mentally ill.
Critics have argued the approach is a ‘slippery slope’ in a country where red tape makes it easier to access doctor-assisted suicide than it is to access benefits and help.
Sheren is enraged by the ‘unacceptable’ and ‘infuriating’ law. She says she personally knows almost a dozen veterans who have been offered euthanasia by authorities, a ‘disgusting’ approach to ‘people who were willing to put their lives on the line… then you have the audacity to tell them it’s better if you just die’.
Sheren, pictured with a soldier in Afghanistan, said she relished being so young in the military because she ‘loved being the underdog’ – but a horrific incident where she witnessed a British serviceman being blown to pieces by an IED changed the course of her life and in the years since she has made it her mission to help other veterans
As one of the only women in a male-dominated world, Sheren said she was sent on missions to be ‘cultural support’ in Afghanistan
Sheren – whose experience is detailed in her new book, ‘Brass and Unity’, published by Knox Press on July 11 – has made it her mission to help other veterans.
Her ordeal began as an aimless 19-year-old in 2009, when she enlisted in the army to find purpose in her life. She immediately knew, however, that her experience would be daunting in the male-dominated military.
‘I knew there was going to be a point in time where I was going to have to show up in a different way than most people would,’ she said. ‘But it was exciting to me.’
As a high-level Taekwondo fighter before her military days, Sheren said she ‘loved the challenge’ and relished the chance to ‘be the underdog’.
But while on a mission with the British military in Afghanistan in 2009 – which she only joined because the team needed a female ‘cultural support’ officer – her life would change forever.
The battalion was moving from compound to compound under heavy fire, with Sheren acting as an artillery gunner to keep the enemy at bay.
As the crew approached a dirt road, one British soldier moved ahead of the pack, sweeping the area with a metal detector before the others moved through.
When he brushed a stack of logs, a hidden IED exploded.
‘We were fighting an enemy that wanted every single one of us dead… by any means necessary,’ Sheren recalled.
Sheren (right) said one of her first symptoms of PTSD was the loss of her empathy and patience
In the immediate aftermath of the explosion, Sheren knew something was wrong. She felt panicked and confused, and screamed uncontrollably when she struggled to wash the fallen soldier’s blood from her hands.
From that moment, she admitted, ‘the rest of the operation was very different’.
As the team pushed on to the next village, Sheren said she became distinctly aware her mindset had shifted negatively, without realizing it was the first symptoms of PTSD.
‘I very well knew the way I was feeling and acting towards Afghan people now was disproportionately angry and violent,’ she continued. ‘My compassion, care, empathy, patience – it was all gone.’
Sheren’s harrowing ordeal is detailed in her new book ‘Brass and Unity’, set for release on July 11
When she returned home to Vancouver from Afghanistan, Sheren was met with a wave of emotions, unsure how to grapple with her new reality under the shadow of post-traumatic stress disorder.
She said she simply ‘couldn’t really feel anything’, and when she checked-in with herself, she drew a blank. ‘I wasn’t happy. I wasn’t sad. I wasn’t tired. I was just enraged,’ she said.
Sheren said she was first offered a fleet of pharmaceuticals designed to mellow her out or put her to sleep, but the drugs sent her off balance and she quickly knew they were not for her.
Instead, she set about testing several therapy techniques with varying success.
Notably, she claimed experimenting with psychedelic drugs was particularly helpful, as it helped her break down her mental barriers and understand her illness.
Her main outlet, however, proved to be art therapy, with the objective nature of the craft allowing her to ‘shut my brain down’ and focus on what was right in front of her.
After making bracelets from bullet casings, Kelsi decided to launch a business – which quickly grew and was backed by celebrity clients.
She now counts numerous A-listers, such as Ellen DeGeneres, Beth Behrs and Kevin Hart, among her fans – the latter whom she credits to her success after a chance meeting.
Hart advised her to change the name of her business from ‘Wearables’ to appeal to male clientele. She came up with ‘Brass and Unity’, and the name has since spawned a growing following, a podcast, and, now, her book.
Sheren (right) is pictured with actress Beth Behrs (left) showing off her bullet casing bracelets
Sheren credits her business success to comedian Kevin Hart after a chance encounter
After overcoming her own mental health battle to build a new life for herself, Sheren has focused on helping others.
Her current fight is at home in Canada, against permissive euthanasia laws. The practice has been legal since 2016, and it has been aggressively expanded to over 10,000 ‘assisted suicides’ in 2021.
But Sheren said she personally knows almost a dozen former military servicemen who have been offered euthanasia by authorities, which she slammed as ‘disgusting.’
‘When you take people who were willing to put their lives on the line for you, for your safety, then you have the audacity to tell them its better if you just die… it is one of the most disgusting things,’ she said.
‘It’s unacceptable, and it is one of the most infuriating things to come down from the Canadian administration in the last decade.’
Canada is on track to record some 13,500 doctor-assisted suicides in 2022
Other critics of euthanasia are sounding the alarm about Australia and the Netherlands, as well as Canada, where assisted suicides are becoming easier to access.
The warning comes on the heels of revelations that the Netherlands euthanizes otherwise healthy people with autism, and as Australian officials debate whether to let children as young as 14 end their lives in the nation’s capital.
Matt Vallière, director of the Patients’ Rights Action Fund, a campaign group, said the mostly western governments that allow assisted suicides send the message that ‘people with certain disabilities are better off dead.’
‘Every expansion of assisted suicide and euthanasia simply adds additional subsets of people with disabilities to the group of those who qualify or makes it easier, quicker, or cheaper for them to get it,’ Vallière told DailyMail.com.
People who need support are shunted into a ‘utilitarian death-funnel,’ he added.
Euthanasia is legal in seven countries — Belgium, Canada, Colombia, Luxembourg, Netherlands, New Zealand and Spain — plus several states in Australia
Euthanasia, a lethal injection administered by a doctor, is legal in seven countries — Belgium, Canada, Colombia, Luxembourg, Netherlands, New Zealand and Spain — plus several states in Australia.
Other jurisdictions, including a growing number of US states, allow doctor-assisted suicide — where patients take the drug themselves, typically crushing up and drinking a lethal dose of pills prescribed by a physician.
The numbers of people opting for assisted suicides has risen steadily in the countries where it’s allowed.
The Netherlands in 2002 became the world’s first country to allow doctors to kill patients, at their request, if strict conditions were met.
Nearly 60,000 opted for the procedure between 2012 and 2021, official figures show.
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