The Irene Thomas Hospice in Ladner, B.C. Photo courtesy of Delta Hospice Society

Editorial: Hospice stands tall

  • January 30, 2020

The operators of a small hospice outside of Vancouver are standing like David against a government Goliath in a showdown to block assisted suicide and euthanasia from crossing their threshold. We support their cause and applaud their courage.

Operators of the 10-bed Irene Thomas Hospice face a Feb. 3 deadline from the local health authority and the B.C. health minister to provide consenting patients access to on-site lethal injections. The government claims its demand is justified because assisted suicide is legal and the institution is largely taxpayer funded.

But the hospice president not only rejects those arguments and refuses to budge but has backed her principled stand by offering to return $750,000 in government support. Forfeiting the money apparently would exempt the hospice from government diktats because less than half its operating budget would henceforth come from taxpayers.

“We’re willing to give up $750,000. That’s how much it means to us to be a true hospice and palliative care facility,” Angelina Ireland told the B.C. Catholic newspaper.

So far, though, the government has not responded to the proposal. It seems to be committed to imposing both its money and political agenda on the small facility, dismissive of the operators’ conscience rights, perhaps as a test case. 

Ireland’s virtuous stand mirrors what hundreds of organizations faced two years ago when the federal government linked grants from the Canada Summer Jobs program to support for its abortion agenda. Churches, charities and small employers rejected millions of dollars rather than compromise moral values. 

Ottawa was wrong then to dangle grant money to entice people to betray their conscience, and the B.C. government is wrong now to act likewise in an attempt to impose its political agenda on institutions that hold sincere beliefs about life and death. Good on Ireland for refusing to be bullied.

The Irene Thomas Hospice is not a faith-based institution, so this is not about religious freedom. The facility managers are standing up for conscience rights. They fundamentally reject the notion that lethal injections form any part of hospice and palliative care. Ending a life prematurely is diametrically opposed to the hospice’s mission of offering compassionate care to the end of natural life. One approach dignifies life, the other inflicts death. 

Their argument is supported by the Canadian Hospice Palliative Care Association and the Canadian Society of Palliative Care Physicians. Deliberately ending a life has no place in end-of-life care, they agree. Hospice and palliative care never seeks to hasten death through lethal injection but instead helps people live in dignity and die naturally.

The distinction between caring and killing, however, is becoming increasingly and regrettably blurred by governments that regard euthanasia as a component of health care. Ireland recognizes the difference and deserves admiration for standing like David against the government Goliath.

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