Vancouver’s St. Paul’s Hospital and other B.C. Catholic health-care facilities are being targetted by a Dying With Dignity Canada campaign to force Catholic hospitals to provide MAiD. Photo from Wikipedia

Lobby seeks MAiD for B.C. Catholic hospitals

By  TERRY O’NEILL, Canadian Catholic News
  • May 13, 2022

VANCOUVER -- The B.C. chapters of Dying With Dignity Canada have launched a public-relations campaign aimed at forcing Catholic and other faith-based health-care facilities to allow patients to undergo “medical assistance in dying” (MAiD) without being transferred to a secular facility.

While the campaign has taken direct aim at the life-affirming policies of Providence Health Care hospitals such as St. Paul’s and Holy Family, Vancouver Archbishop J. Michael Miller said he doesn’t think the pro-suicide pressure poses an immediate threat.

“It’s only ideologues who push this and they don’t have the upper hand at the moment,” he said. “What’s going to happen in the long run is harder for me to discern.”

Dying With Dignity said it wanted to ensure that suicide-seekers receiving care in pro-life facilities don’t have to endure “forced transfers” to suicide-allowing facilities.

“Eligible British Columbians are being denied their constitutionally protected right to access MAiD by some taxpayer-funded health-care facilities,” Metro Vancouver chapter chair Alex Muir said in a news release. 

The organization alleged that British Columbians’ access to assisted suicide is being “unfairly restricted by an outdated agreement between the provincial government and the Denominational Health Association,” of which Providence Health Care is a principal member.

The lobby group urged its supporters to flood politicians with letters claiming that patients seeking assistance in killing themselves “are forced to undergo grueling transfers,” although the organization provided no evidence to support its assertion. 

Health Minister Adrian Dix has not commented on Dying With Dignity’s campaign, but he has supported the Fraser Health Authority’s order compelling all of its facilities, including the Irene Thomas Hospice operated by pro-life Delta Hospice Society, to allow assisted suicides on their premises.

The pressure to force Catholic facilities to allow assisted suicide comes as concerns are steadily mounting over the growth of euthanasia in Canada.

Under amendments passed by Parliament in March 2021, patients do not need to have a fatal or terminal condition to be eligible for MAiD. Rather, they may qualify if they have “a grievous and irremediable medical condition” or “serious illness, disease or disability,” even if it is not life-threatening.

The criteria are scheduled to expand in March 2023 to include mental illness as a sole reason for accessing assisted suicide.

The relaxing of restrictions is especially concerning to Robert Breen, executive director of the Catholic Health Association of B.C. He fears an ongoing shortage of mental-health services “could have the adverse impact” of pushing more people with mental-health issues to opt for assisted suicide.

“I would say that, combined with the change of the law that allows mental health as the sole purpose, it just drives more people,” Breen said. “Because in a moment of despair, they may opt for MAiD.”

Shortages of medical resources and social supports are also being blamed for forcing low-income Canadians to opt for assisted suicide.

A 51-year-old Ontario woman opted for assisted suicide after failing to find an affordable apartment that was free of the cigarette smoke and chemical cleaners that aggravated her serious allergies.

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