Delta hospice refuses assisted death, sets worrying precedent: advocates

DELTA (NEWS 1130) – Facilities cannot receive public funding and then prohibit assisted death. That’s the perspective from Dying with Dignity Canada as it calls for the Delta Hospice Society to give people that option.

Fraser Health, the authority which oversees the hospice and provides funding, has met with the facility’s board to stress that it must allow assisted dying.

Cory Ruf with Dying with Dignity Canada welcomes that, arguing it would be a concerning precedent if individual hospices are allowed to opt out.

“It would communicate a troubling message to patients in the Fraser Health region and across the province, across the country, if the hospice is not required to put the rights of the people they care for first,” he says.

He notes Fraser Health has made it clear these kinds of facilities must make assisted dying available, but by not enforcing that rule, it sends the message to other providers that they can refuse to comply as well.

He says these publicly-funded facilities must allow access to assisted dying, if it’s what the patient wants.

“It’s about more than just this single facility that, by taking a strong stance in defense of the rights of patients, the Fraser Health Authority has the opportunity to set a national precedent in favour of people’s rights and choices at end of life.”

Ruf adds that patients shouldn’t have to think twice about whether their facility offers assisted death when they’re moving to a hospice.

“If a person is even remotely considering exploring a request for medical assistance in dying, that should not be a barrier to them accessing the best hospice palliative care available. These policies of banning assisted dying at hospices and other healthcare facilities, it harms patients, and damages their ability to make choices for themselves when these arbitrary barriers are imposed.”

Fraser Health working to enforce rules

Fraser Health says it’s had an assisted death policy since 2016, and supports patient’s rights to access the option.

“We took a phased approach to the implementation of this service and, in December 2017, proceeded with the final phase of implementation in hospices and palliative care settings. We have been working closely with the Delta Hospice Society since to support them in implementing this service,” reads a statement from the authority.

“On December 5, representatives from Fraser Health met with the leadership from the Irene Thomas Hospice to discuss concerns we have regarding compliance of their contract. Fraser Health subsequently provided them with formal notice of the concerns.”

NEWS 1130 has reached out to Delta Hospice Society for comment.

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