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Updated: Langley hospice losing volunteers, donors over medically assisted death issue

Fraser Health Authority chair defends directive, says patients would be forced to leave hospices otherwise

Some volunteers have informed the Langley Hospice Society they won’t work under a Fraser Health Authority (FHA) directive that says medically assisted deaths must be permitted at the local 10-bed hospice facility.

The society has also heard from some donors who have said they will not contribute to the society under the directive that was issued in December, society executive director Nancy Panchuk said.

Panchuk explained that the directive said medically assisted deaths will take place in all hospices in the region.

“There was no consultation, period, with any of the hospices,” Panchuk told The Times.

The Langley Hospice Society, which provides volunteers and other services to the local hospice, does not have any say over day-to-operations, Panchuk said.

“Unfortunately, our hands are tied, Panchuk said.

READ MORE: MPs split over doctor-assisted death

One of the donors who would not continue supporting the society is Langley MP Mark Warawa.

“I could not, in good conscience, fund that activity at hospice care facilities,” Warawa told The Times.

Warawa said a hospice isn’t an appropriate place for medically assisted deaths.

In a letter to the FHA, the MP said he was “deeply concerned” by the decision, which he said goes against the internationally recognized definition of palliative care as something that “neither hastens nor postpones death.”

“Requiring hospice palliative care facilities to hasten the death of a patient through the use of assisted suicide and euthanasia directly contradicts this recognized mandate and social licence of hospice facilities, health care professionals and volunteers that are supported and funded by generous donors in our communities,” said Warawa, who is the opposition shadow cabinet secretary for palliative care and income security.

Jim Sinclair, the chair of the Fraser Health Authority board of directors, said the point of the directive was to allow hospice patients in the FHA the right to exercise their legal right to Medical Assistance in Dying (MAiD) services without forcing them to relocate to another facility.

“If it was barred (in a hospice), they would have to be transferred,” Sinclair said.

“It doesn’t make a lot of sense.”

Sinclair said a number of hospice patients in the Fraser Health Authority have opted for doctor-assisted deaths, though he could not provide precise figures.

“They have a legal right,” Sinclair said.

We’re saying we’re not going to make them leave (if they exercise that right).”

The operators of the Delta Hospice Society have reportedly rebelled against the Fraser Health directive, warning it may mean people will not want to be patients or work in the facility.

Sinclair said the FHA is in talks with the Delta hospice to resolve the issue.

READ MORE: New 15-bed hospice to open in Langley in 2019

In a 2015 decision, the Supreme Court of Canada ruled the parts of the Criminal Code that prohibited medical assistance in dying would need to change to satisfy the Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedoms.

In 2016, the federal government passed legislation governing MAiD.

Under the new law, doctors may provide medical assistance in dying to capable, consenting adults who have a grievous and irremediable medical condition that causes enduring, intolerable suffering and who are at a point where natural death is reasonably foreseeable.

The FHA has an online MAiD information page at its www.fraserhealth.ca website.



dan.ferguson@langleytimes.com

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