A proposed private hospice in Toronto is hoping to become a safe haven from euthanasia for health professionals and patients. Photo/Pexels

Hospice to provide safe haven from euthanasia for patients and doctors

  • March 24, 2017

Rather than fighting to change the system which imposes euthanasia, health care professional bioethicist Bob Parke wants to create a private hospice that bans assisted killing and where dying will only come the natural way.

“Our values are such that if you come in, euthanasia or medical aid in dying will not be provided here,” he said of the proposed hospice in Toronto which is in the initial planning stage. “For many people euthanasia is against their values. This is an opportunity where (they) can turn turn values into practice.”

The safe haven hospice’s staff would neither hasten death nor prolong life by resuscitating patients. What patients will receive is medication to alleviate suffering, meals and people for social comfort.

“We will help you live until you die,” said Parke, a parishioner of St. Gabriel Passionist Parish and member of the Knights of Columbus Council 11681. “You’re not alone in your journey.”

While the cost of medications, as well as physician fees, will in most cases be covered by government-funded insurance plans, Parke said the hospice is going to require a lot of help to get off the ground.

“Largely we are going to need benefactors, people who believe in our project and want to work with us to fund us,” said Parke. “We need pre-development money, we need people to help us with formal fundraisers.”

Parke, along with a small group of allies, are scouting for an ideal building which must be able to accommodate the necessary retro-fit. Once completed, patient rooms — no more than 10 — would be large enough to allow for a pull-out sofa for loved ones and ensuites, complete with full bath.

Parke, a member of the Clinical Advisory Committee for the Ontario Palliative Care Network, said he’d also like to see space set aside for a chapel, common kitchen and education area within the hospice, which must be handicap-accessible.

Ideally it would be located in Toronto’s central region, an under-served area when it comes to palliative care, said Parke.

Despite praising the government for taking what he called “a number of initiatives” to improve palliative care, Parke is reluctant to reach out to politicians for public support regarding the safe haven hospice.

“Some of my colleagues were saying if you take government money, then you must provide medical aid in dying,” he said. “So our ideal would be that we are not government dependent.”

John Ruetz, a spokesperson for the Catholic Health Sponsors of Ontario, said that none of the 21 CHSO member organizations, including hospitals and nursing homes, provide services for physician-assisted suicide or offer referrals for it.

“In Ontario this is clearly supported by legislation that says no organization is required to provide a service that is not consistent with its religious teachings,” he said.

However, Ontario’s College of Physicians and Surgeons does require doctors make an “effective referral” for euthanasia, a position being challenged by a push to include conscience rights in Bill 84.

Ron Forbes, a partner of the safe haven hospice project and former CEO of the Juvenile Diabetes Research Foundation, said avoiding government funding will be challenging. He expects it will take about $10 million to bring the hospice to life.

“Raising money these days isn’t an easy thing.”

To ease their struggle, Forbes has been exploring the possibility of establishing business partnerships within the church community to increase fundraising success by providing legitimacy to the safe haven hospice.

Although still just a concept, Parke, who works at Humber River Hospital, knows the concerns it aims to appease are very real.

“I realized that there are a lot of people to whom causing a person death would be morally unacceptable,” he said.

For further information about the Safe Haven Hospice contact torontohospiceproject@scainternational.org.

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