Letter: FHA policy on doctor assisted death contradicts hospice mandate

Editor: Regarding Fraser Health Authority’s decision to force hospice facilities to provide doctor assisted suicide:

The federal government passed a bill last year to fund monies to increase palliative care for our Canadians, giving them options that many right now do not have. Since doctor assisted suicide (DAS) was passed through the courts, Canadians have been lobbying this as they choose not to hasten their death through euthanasia

One hospice (Delta) has been working with the hospital to transfer patients wanting DAS back to areas outside of hospice/palliative care, where there are trained personnel willing to do this task. There are a reported 25 cases only over 18 months that this service was required. This has been running smoothly, so why the change?

Fraser Health Authority (FHA) under new management, has recently mandated that all hospice/palliative care facilities must perform DAS to patients that choose this option and no longer paying to send them to designated areas. This is the only area in the province and no other province in Canada is doing this.

This destroys the whole concept of what the World Health Organization has defined palliative care to mean to neither hasten nor prolong natural death, but offer comfort to patients and families until this occurs.

As a retired nurse who worked in Maple Ridge for 30 of my 37-year career, I was proud to see the concept of palliative beds designated in the hospital as well as the building of the hospice centre to cater to the needs of the community. This opened beds for the acute and aided patients to live their last days in comfort, helping to bring closure for their families. I felt privileged to work for a progressive organization, FHA, which brought this to fruition. I was also affected by several friends whom I assisted, along with hospice, to live their last days at home as comfortable as possible until their natural deaths occurred.

Today, I am appalled at this new direction where FHA is destroying the very fabric of the hard work of so many professionals and volunteers with this mandate. It is an oxymoron to have doctor assisted suicide in the centres where they neither hasten nor prolong death.

At a time when health dollars are tight I see this a ploy to force communities to pay out of pocket for free standing hospice centres that have no government funding. This country was built by seniors and they have a right to have their tax dollars support and keep them comfortable until their natural deaths (their choice). There are not enough beds now to assist those wanting help.

It is time for the government to use tax dollars for all Canadians, not just a few who choose to opt out of life too soon. I want my tax dollars to go toward funding palliative care/hospice where there is no threat of accidentally or deliberately having our deaths hastened. Where is the health care that I and many others were promised by the bill supporting an increase in palliative beds as a choice?

Brenda O’Scienny,

Langley

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