DELTA, British Columbia, December 12, 2019 (LifeSiteNews) — British Columbia’s government is threatening to penalize a non-faith-based hospice if it fails to follow its directives and allow its patients to be killed on-site through a medically-assisted death program.
The province could go as far as to shut down the Delta Hospice Society, which operates the 10-bed Irene Thomas Hospice in Ladner, BC, says Alex Schadenberg of the Euthanasia Prevention Coalition.
New Democratic Party (NDP) health minister Adrian Dix has given the society until Thursday to produce plans to comply with the Fraser Health Authority’s policy that all its facilities — excepting faith-based institutions that can object on religious grounds — provide euthanasia, the Globe and Mail reported.
It’s the latest turn in a long-running battle that began in September 2016, when Fraser Health Authority adopted its policy on euthanasia, euphemistically referred to as “medical aid in dying” (MAiD), which the Justin Trudeau Liberal government legalized that June.
Hospice founder and then-executive director Nancy Macey refused to allow euthanasia at Irene Thomas, arguing that patients would need to be transferred to another facility to be killed because lethally injecting them was incompatible with palliative care and violated the hospice’s constitution, which states that it will not hasten a patient’s death.
The hospice is under contract with the health authority, which funds it $1.3 million annually, or slightly less than half its operating budget — the rest of which comes from private donations — and owns the land on which the building sits, which it leases to the hospice, according to the Vancouver Sun.
Fraser Health Authority then issued an edict in February 2018 that the hospice provide euthanasia onsite, but the society said it would not do so.
Macey and Janice Strukoff, an administrative leader for society, told the Vancouver Sun at the time that euthanizing patients not only is against the hospice’s constitution, but also stoked fears and anxieties of vulnerable patients and would traumatize not only them, but also staff and volunteers.
“Hospice palliative care is not about hastening death and we object to the bullying currently taking place in B.C.,” Strukoff said.
The health authority then mandated in September 2018 that hospices could not transfer a patient to another facility to be euthanized, according to the Vancouver Sun.
And in September 2019, the hospice board fired Macey and voted to allow euthanasia, it reported.
However, following a membership drive, a new board was elected at the November 28 annual general meeting. It voted to reverse the policy to allow euthanasia, arguing that doing so was against the society’s constitution, dismissed the acting executive director, and appointed a new one.
The Canadian Society of Palliative Care Physicians and Canadian Hospice Palliative Care Association backed the Delta society’s decision in a joint November 27 “Call to Action.”
“Hospice palliative care and MAiD substantially differ in multiple areas including in philosophy, intention and approach. Hospice palliative care does not seek to hasten death or intentionally end life,” the statement said.
“MAiD is not part of hospice palliative care; it is not an ‘extension’ of palliative care, nor is it one of the tools ‘in the palliative care basket’. National and international hospice palliative care organizations are unified in the position that MAiD is not part of the practice of hospice palliative care,” it added.
Fraser Health Authority responded to the decision by insisting the hospice had to comply with its policy and met with members of the board on December 5. Now Dix is suggesting the province will pull funding — if not more drastic punishment — if the hospice doesn’t bow to the euthanasia rule.
“[W]e do live in a free society,” Dix told the Globe and Mail.
“Delta Hospice Society can decide that it doesn’t want to continue to receive support from the Fraser Health Authority in its mission. They can choose to do that. You can absolutely have it your way. But you can’t have it both ways.”
But Schadenberg says the minister and the health authority are overstepping their roles by “forcing and bullying” the hospice to provide euthanasia.
He has launched a petition to Dr. Victoria Lee, president of the Fraser Health Authority, and to minister Dix supporting the society.
The results of this battle will be far-reaching, Schadenberg told LifeSiteNews.
“If the Delta Hospice closes, the residents of Delta will lose the 10-bed hospice that is known for providing excellent end-of-life care,” he said.
“If the Delta Hospice is forced to do euthanasia, then all Canadian hospice groups will be forced to do euthanasia.”
To sign the EPCC petition supporting Delta Hospice, go here.