Layoff notices have been issued at Irene Thomas Hospice as the B.C. government forces its closure for not allowing doctor-delivered death. Photo from B.C. Catholic

Peter Stockland: Hospice closure a sign of spiritual malignancy

  • January 15, 2021

The fate forced upon the 10-bed Irene Thomas Hospice this month is symptomatic of Medical Assistance in Dying (MAiD) evolving from political maleficence to spiritual malignancy.

On Jan. 8, staff at the palliative care centre in suburban Vancouver were given layoff notices in anticipation of the hospice closing down. Its board, the Delta Hospice Society, will be evicted. Its assets will be expropriated by the B.C. government through the aegis of its Fraser Health Authority. All this because the facility’s bylaws do not permit administration of MAiD on the premises.

As board president Angelina Ireland has taken public pains to make clear, the Delta Hospice Society never sought to refight the legal and legislative battles against MAiD that ended with the Supreme Court’s 2015 Carter decision. It has no time, energy or inclination to roll back the 2016 Criminal Code amendments that made doctor-delivered death a “health-care choice” in Canada. It has wanted only to respect the choice of patients at the end of life to be in a palliative environment where no one is administering fatal doses of toxic substances.

“A person who wants MAiD can have it at the hospital right next door to us,” Ireland says. “This is about the B.C. government destroying a sanctuary for dying patients who want the choice to stay in a facility where MAiD is not offered. They now find their rights to equal choice being revoked. They are being disenfranchised by the very system they pay for.”

Alas, the politics of the day can no longer recognize the sanity, indeed the sanctity, of equality, choice and enfranchisement when MAiD is involved. The new MAiD imperative is to turn universal health care into universal death on demand. Nothing can be allowed to interfere. It’s become what the French call an idée fixe, which conveys the sense of the psychological disturbance that obsession inevitably entails.

The end-point absurdity of this was artlessly expressed by local MLA Ian Paton, who rushed to reassure readers through a Facebook post that all will be well despite the closure because its palliative patients will simply be “transferred to another location” in the area. Where he did not say. Perhaps he does not know. But clearly he has forgotten why MAiD activists pressed so furiously for the procedure to be allowed at the Irene Thomas Hospice.

Their vociferous argument was that transferring MAiD seekers to a hospital 100 yards away constituted a gross indignity to those at the end of life and might inflict further unconscionable suffering on them. Now, however, those very patients will be scattered to the winds made to blow through the emptied hospice by those very activists. Ironic, yes? More ironic still is that only three or four of about 1,000 patients have asked to receive medically-assisted death during the hospice’s 10 years of existence.

Such serpent-eating-its-tail circularity is, sadly, par for the political course. Patients will be disrupted. Dedicated staff have been laid off. No one is certain at the moment what will replace the hospice or its board once the doors close in February. But MAiD will be politically forced in even where it isn’t personally wanted. And that is what matters.

An activist group, abetted by think-alike politicos and functionaries, have won the day and will have their way whatever the harm, the damage, the contraindications, the maleficence of process and result.

Proceeding past the politics, we come to the spiritual. We come to where the markers of malignancy begin to appear. They are discernable by asking: “Why?” Why are devotees of MAiD so implacable in their quest to overwhelm any reluctance to administer it? Why are they so caustic in their denigration of those who point out, correctly, that nothing in law requires MAiD to be available anywhere, to anyone, at any time? Why are they already pressing to go further even when current legislation expanding MAiD provision hasn’t passed Parliament?

An answer is because having achieved what they’ve achieved, it would invite a catastrophic spiritual crisis to admit any future limit to MAiD.

Any admission of limits would oblige acknowledging that limits already transgressed might have been valid after all. It would mean some moral, if not full legal, culpability in the deaths of those who died with toxic substances administered to their veins. It would mean political blood on advocates’ hands. Who would want to admit that even as a possibility?

It’s so much easier to push on in denial when you’re dicing with imminent spiritual death.

(Stockland is publisher of and a senior fellow with Cardus.)

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