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The Irene Thomas Hospice in Delta, B.C., has been told to offer assisted suicide by February. Photo courtesy Delta Hospice

Hospice faces deadline on assisted suicide

By  Agnieszka Ruck, Canadian Catholic News
  • January 19, 2020

VANCOUVER -- A heated debate about whether a 10-bed hospice in Delta, B.C., should offer assisted suicide may come to a climax in February.

Delta Hospice Society, the non-profit behind the Irene Thomas Hospice, is facing pressure from the Fraser Health Authority to offer so-called Medical Aid in Dying (MAiD) to its patients by next month. Assisted suicide has been legal in Canada since 2016.

The non-profit says offering a lethal injection to its patients runs contrary to its constitution, while Fraser Health holds the position that patients have a right to it.

“Fraser Health fully supports a patient’s right to receive medical assistance in dying wherever they may be, including in a hospice setting,” health authority spokesperson Tasleem Juma told The B.C. Catholic Jan. 6.

“We understand this is a difficult and emotional issue for some people, but it is important to consider the patient in everything we do.”

Last month, representatives from Fraser Health met with leadership from the hospice to discuss concerns about the hospice not offering assisted dying to patients under the Fraser Health’s 2016 MAiD policy.

Juma said that after that meeting, Fraser Health “provided them with formal notice of the concerns and shared our expectations that they comply to permit medical assistance in dying by February 2020.”

What happens if it refuses to allow on-site assisted suicide by deadline? Health Minister Adrian Dix hinted at dramatic penalties at a media briefing Dec. 11.

“Should they not want to fulfil their contract with Fraser Health, there may well be consequences for that,” Dix said, as reported by the Delta Optimist.

“Delta Hospice can decide it doesn’t want to continue receiving support from the Fraser Health Authority in its mission. They can choose to do that ... but, of course, you can’t have it both ways.”

The Optimist reported the hospice receives about half of its funding from Fraser Health.

The small hospice is not alone in its stance on assisted suicide. Both the Canadian Hospice Palliative Care Association and the Canadian Society of Palliative Care Physicians released a joint statement at the end of 2019 saying a hospice is not an appropriate place to end the lives of patients.

They also called on federal and provincial governments to prioritize funding and access to hospice care.

(The B.C. Catholic)

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