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A hospice society in British Columbia, Canada, is refusing to make provisions for physician-assisted suicide, which is legal in Canada, and is being forced to give up government funding for the hospice they operate.
The board of the Delta Hospice Society is opposed to medically assisted death on moral and philosophical grounds, though it is not affiliated with any particular religion.
According to the contract the society has with the government to operate the Irene Thomas Hospice in Delta, a city that forms part of Greater Vancouver, funding will be provided for another year. But by February 25, 2021, the 10-bed facility will have to close.
“The Irene Thomas Hospice is dedicated to allowing patients access to expert symptom management for physical, emotional and spiritual distress,” the society said in a statement this past week. “It provides comfort, meaning, dignity and hope as one dies a natural death.” The statement expressed “shock and outrage” over the fact that the Fraser public health authority would “cut off all discussions and close the facility because it wants the hospice to provide MAiD (Medical Assistance in Dying) at every facility.”
According to the B.C. Catholic, the Fraser Health Authority and provincial Health Minister Adrian Dix earlier this year said the hospice would have to start allowing assisted suicides on site by February 3. Delta Hospice Society president Angelina Ireland responded that the hospice would rather give up $750,000 of its government funding than end the lives of its patients. It is the policy of the Fraser Health Authority that all hospices receiving more than 50% of provincial funding for their beds must offer MAiD to their residents. The hospice receives $1.4 million of its $3 million operating budget from Fraser.
On February 25, Dix announced the government was terminating the contract with Delta. Ireland said in the press release that Fraser Health ignored her request to lower the amount of funding to below the 50% threshold, and also forbade the hospice from finding another partner to work with.
To ensure hospice care remains available in Delta, Dix said the government would take over management of the current building or open another 10-bed hospice somewhere else in the area.
The hospice was built at a cost of about $9 million, paid for without government funding, Ireland said. Hospice supporters are planning a rally at the B.C. Legislature Saturday, April 4, according to the B.C. Catholic. Ireland said the Delta Hospice Society is considering legal and other options to continue serving patients who don’t want to end their lives by assisted suicide or die in a facility that offers it.
“They tell us if we’re getting taxpayer money, we have to” provide assisted suicide, Ireland told the B.C. Catholic in a separate interview. But “the people we take care of are taxpayers too. We are on the side of the taxpayers who want to access hospice palliative care.”
“If the government wants to open MAiD facilities, that’s their option, but they must not be allowed to download it onto the backs of private palliative care facilities,” Ireland said.
Meanwhile, the federal government plans to change assisted dying laws to eliminate the requirement that a person’s death must be “reasonably forseeable,” the newspaper said.