DELTA, British Columbia, January 21, 2020 (LifeSiteNews) — A British Columbia palliative care hospice under government orders to provide euthanasia onsite by February 3 has offered to forgo $750,000 in public funds rather than let sick patients be killed by lethal injection in its 10-bed facility.
But whether NDP health minister Adrian Dix and the Fraser Health Authority (FHA) will accept its deal remains to be seen, Delta Hospice Society board chair Angelina Ireland told LifeSiteNews.
Dix and the health authority insist that the hospice does not qualify for a faith-based exemption and is obliged under contract to allow euthanasia, or Medical Assistance in Dying (MAiD), at its Irene Thomas Hospice.
The non-profit society argues that euthanasia is incompatible with palliative care, and allowing it violates the society’s charter, which promises not to hasten a patient’s death.
In its latest attempt to protect its patients as the government-imposed deadline looms, the hospice society wrote Fraser Health January 15 proposing a $750,000 reduction in its annual public funding to qualify for a provincial exemption from its obligation to provide euthanasia.
The society based its offer on a July 2018 ministry communiqué that says health authorities “will permit that a Contracted Organization that receives less than or equal to 50% of their beds funded from the health authority may decide to refuse to allow the provision of medical assistance in dying.”
This communiqué “is the crux of the whole matter at this point,” Ireland told LifeSiteNews.
Fraser Health currently funds the society with $1.3 million annually and leases the land on which the hospice sits to the society. The rest of the society’s funds come from private donations, according to the Vancouver Sun.
“It would be such a wonderful affirmation of hospice palliative care if they would accept this proposal that we’ve put forward. We’re just hopeful,” Ireland said.
“Ultimately, we do want to continue to be partners with Fraser Health.”
The long-running dispute has bitterly divided the West Coast community south of Vancouver and began when Fraser Health released its euthanasia policy in September 2016.
That was three months after the Trudeau Liberals legalized euthanasia at the bidding of the Supreme Court, which in February 2015 struck down the law prohibiting the practice as unconstitutional.
Ireland was appointed chair in November 2019 during a heated meeting in which the newly elected board reversed the former board’s one-week-old decision to allow euthanasia at Irene Thomas Hospice.
The former board had also in September fired hospice founder and executive director Nancy Macey, a steadfast opponent of euthanasia.
“It’s been an incredibly difficult period of time for our society here in our community because our community is so polarized,” Ireland told LifeSiteNews.
Moreover, being on her side of the debate “has been incredibly horrific” because euthanasia activists have kept up a “constant barrage” of personal attacks on social media against her and other board members “to completely try and discredit us, ruin our careers, ruin our reputations within the community and with anyone else who will listen,” she said.
On the plus side, both the Canadian Hospice Palliative Care Association (CHPCA) and the Canadian Society of Palliative Care Physicians (CSPCP) are backing the hospice society.
“National and international hospice palliative care organizations are unified in the position that MAiD is not part of the practice of hospice palliative care,” the organizations said in a joint statement in November.
They pointed out that most Canadians seek hospice and palliative care compared to 1.5 percent who seek euthanasia.
Ireland, an entrepreneur and accountant who became involved with the society five years ago after using its services when she had cancer, described hospice palliative care’s advances in pain and symptom management in the last four decades as “basically a miracle of medicine.”
Hospice palliative care and euthanasia “are two different streams of medicine,” she said, adding that euthanasia advocates are trying to “ basically parachute into our stream and steal it.”
But while euthanasia is available in a number of health care facilities, including the hospital that’s “literally a minute away” from the hospice, “you can only have hospice palliative care in one place in Delta, and that’s at our facility, and that’s those 10 beds. That’s it,” Ireland said.
“Once you allow this elective procedure to come into the hospice, then those beds could easily be taken up by those who are waiting for this procedure, limiting those who are looking for hospice-palliative care beds,” she added.
Ireland disputed the argument that the hospice must provide euthanasia because it receives tax dollars, pointing out that its partnership with the health authority “works both ways.”
Apart from the fact that “every single person that we’ve had the honour of treating over the years has been a taxpayer, and their families have been taxpayers,” the hospice society raised $30 million over the years “to subsidize the government healthcare system,” she said.
Moreover, “we’ve given to them 750,000 hours of labour” though volunteer work, Ireland added.
She conceded that the proposed shortfall of $750,000 is no small thing but said the hospice has looked at its books and is ready to “go out and work with other partners” if the government accepts the offer.
The society is “determined” to do whatever it must “to maintain this hospice palliative care facility,” Ireland said. “It’s important that we make this stand not only for ourselves but for every hospice in this country who the government is coming for.”
Ireland made a plea to people to contact the NDP government in support of the hospice.
“We have a number of things stacked against us,” including the “incredibly loud and obnoxious” Dying With Dignity euthanasia lobby that “gets the ear of legislators” and the sympathy of the media, Ireland said.
“We need to mobilize people who are supportive of the kind of work that we do,” she said. “We need people to write Health Minister Adrian Dix and express how important this hospice and palliative care facility is and how it would be supported by the public.”
To sign the Euthanasia Prevention Coalition petition to Minister Dix and Fraser Health Authority CEO Dr. Victoria Lee in support of Delta Hospice Society, click here.
Write the B.C. health minister to support the Delta Hospice Society:
Minister of Health Adrian Dix
Room 337 Parliament Buildings
Victoria, BC V8V 1X4
Email: [email protected]
Phone: (250) 953-3547