MAiD being forced upon Montreal hospice

  • November 29, 2023

A Montreal hospice is under pressure to perform medical assistance in dying (MAiD) contrary to the legal agreement between the Archdiocese of Montreal and the hospice, a source has told The Register.

Members of the board at St. Raphael Palliative Care Home and Day Centre have been instructed not to comment publicly on the situation, which arises after the Quebec government amended the Act respecting End-of-Life Care and legislated in June that “no palliative care hospice may exclude medical aid in dying from the care they offer.”

In the wake of this legislative change imposed on the hospice centre, the board and administration of St. Raphael have not yet provided an official response or public action.

Véronique Després, director of Multidisciplinary Services at St. Raphael, responded to the question of whether the hospice had already begun to offer MAiD to patients at the home.

“I cannot say myself, but the information I have been given is that we refuse to answer that question,” she said.

But Sergio Famularo, a Montreal attorney who is a founding member of St. Raphael, says that “we built this thing not to have MAiD, euthanasia, there, it goes against what the mission is, and I just hope that the board reacts to it. I’ve made that clear to them and I hope that they act.”

St. Raphael was one of only a handful of the 37 private hospices in Quebec that did not already offer MAiD before Bill 11 was passed on June 7. Now it finds itself faced with an identity crisis.

The project had a good-news origin story. An 80-year-old, English-speaking parish, St. Raphael the Archangel closed its doors in 2009, but Church and community stakeholders collaborated to develop a future for the property as a 12-bed palliative care residence and Quebec’s first palliative day centre.

In 2016, Archbishop Christian Lépine and then St. Raphael Board Chair Marie-Michèle Del Balso signed a 75-year lease, beginning with an initial 25-year term and renewable for a further two such terms, and the land and buildings were transferred to the use of the centre. A significant condition of the emphyteutic lease was that the facility would offer only end-of-life care and support and never MAiD.

After a successful fundraising campaign that garnered support from several high-profile Catholic foundations and business leaders, including a donation of over $500,000 from the estate of the last priest of St. Raphael Parish, Fr. Gerald “Gerry” Sinel, St. Raphael’s opened its doors in 2019.

But the close relationship between the key players, including the Archdiocese of Montreal, leaseholder, the former St. Raphael parishioners who played a significant role in the realization of the project, and the administration of the centre may now be in jeopardy.

With the clock now ticking, it is not clear whether St. Raphael plans to mount a challenge to the new legal obligations.

A source close to the situation has told The Catholic Register that a meeting between the Archdiocese and members of the senior administration and governing board has taken place. The Archdiocese had not responded to enquiries about the result of those discussions, the current legal situation between the two entities and whether a pushback to the legislation is in the offing.

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