Letter: Decisions about medically assisted death should be left up to patient

Editor: Regarding recent news stories about hospice care and medically assisted death, I am a family physician who worked for several years in palliative and hospice care in Fraser Health.

While good hospice care can be very beneficial, and I would like to see it offered to everyone with a terminal illness, not all suffering can be alleviated with medication or other forms of treatment.

My belief is that the choice of a medically assisted death should be up to the individual patient, although proper screening and advice is of course necessary.

That said, I sympathize greatly with hospice staff who have devoted their careers to providing care that “neither hastens nor postpones death,” and who may or may not have their own religious beliefs that conflict with providing euthanasia, as they are forced up against changing public mores, laws, and institutional pressures.

In some ways this is not unlike termination of a pregnancy, a legal service that not very practitioner wishes to provide, but still triggers an obligation to refer the patient elsewhere.

However, there is an important difference here, in that the act of transferring a patient from hospice to another institution may fly in the face of the principles of hospice care by worsening the very symptoms that they have been admitted to ease, such as severe pain.

Another mandate of hospice is to provide a home-like environment where patients may spend their final days, and being transferred adds the stress and, often, disorientation, of moving to a strange locale.

Plus, as anyone involved in a health care profession knows, patient transfers do not always go smoothly, and there may be timing and jurisdictional issues that can lead to uncertainty and delays in medication administration. All of these factors much be considered as well.

In the end, none of us knows the suffering of the person who is near death, and the needs of the patient must come first.

It is up to us as professionals to respect the wishes of vulnerable people at the end of their lives.

Avis Picton,

Langley

Just Posted

VIDEO: G-Men seek revenge Saturday night in rematch at Langley Events Centre

Portland’s Winterhawks downed the Vancouver Giants 5-3 during a road trip down south.

Tommy Chong says cannabis legalization makes him proud to be a Canadian

Legendary marijuana advocate and comedian celebrates cultural milestone at Kelowna event

UPDATE: Abbotsford murder victim was brother of slain gang leader

Mandeep Grewal gunned down Thursday, brother Gavin killed in North Van in 2017

Children’s author shares her story with West Langley Elementary students

Gabrielle Prendergast toured Fraser Valley schools and libraries from Oct. 15-19.

Nominations wanted for Langley moms in need

The Mama Coach launched the 2nd annual Christmas for Mamas Giveback campaign.

Singer k.d. lang receives Alberta’s highest honour

Celebrated singer-songwriter k.d. lang received the Alberta Order of Excellence in Edmonton

B.C. tickets win big in Lotto Max draw

Jackpot carried over; B.C. tickets share Max Millions prizes

‘Mom, I’m in trouble:’ Canadian faces 10 years for alleged graffiti

Brittney Schneider, another tourist caught spraying message on walls of Tha Pae Gate in Thailand

Feds consulting on national anti-racism strategy behind closed doors

Heritage Minister Pablo Rodriguez says people still face systemic racism in some communities

Enbridge aims for mid-November to finish B.C. pipeline repair after blast

A natural gas pipeline that ruptured and burned near Prince George caused an explosion and fireball

How to get government cheques if Canada Post staff go on strike

The Canadian Union of Postal Workers said members could go on rotating strikes as early as Monday

Man who sexually assaulted teen is declared dangerous offender

Anton Foulds has more than 30 convictions, dating back to 1991

Anti-SOGI school trustee files defamation lawsuit against BCTF president

Barry Neufeld says Glen Hansman’s words caused him “indignity,” “personal harassment,” and “anxiety”

Most Read