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,


Just Posted

UPDATE: Strong showing by Langley Selects at 10-day tournament

Twelve teams competed in round-robin series

VIDEO: Langley hospital history recovered

After 16 years in storage, LMH memorial plaques added to museum in time for 70th anniversary party

Heat warning issued for Metro Vancouver

Inland areas expect to hit at least 26 degrees for daytime highs

VIDEO: Erikson’s Daylily Gardens and Perennials holds annual open house

Pam and Tom Erikson have 17th annual charitable fundraiser at their private Langley garden

Cloverdale horse barn goes up in flames

Fire crews work for hours to extinguish blaze on 184th Street

REPLAY: B.C.’s best video this week

In case you missed it, here’s a look at replay-worthy highlights from across the province this week

The Bandits arrive in the Fraser Valley

New professional basketball team announces name, colours and logo

B.C. baseball team offers funeral prize pack

Wednesday’s West Coast League game in Victoria features draw for end-of-life package

Black Press Media journalists win big at Canadian community newspaper awards

Newsrooms earn recognition for editorial and photography excellence

Short trip to car-free Sidney Spit offers camping, beaches, hikes

Sidney Spit is part of B.C.’s Gulf Islands National Park Reserve, a protected marine ecosystem

Riptide, CVUSC paved the way for varsity soccer players

Chloe Gummer has become a leader at VIU

B.C. woman disappointed after family asked for ID at townhouse complex pool

Surrey woman says it’s not the first time she has experienced racial profiling at the complex

Park pipeline protesters say arrest is a ‘declaration of war’

Group behind North Thompson River Provincial Park occupation protest says arrest is ‘declaration of war’

A day of deals at Amazon, and at its rivals

Online retail giant extends annual ‘Prime Day’ promotion to 36 hours

Most Read