Government refuses compromise
Easier and cheaper to kill than to care
Vancouver — Delta Hospice officials were shocked and outraged this week by the Fraser Health Authority’s blatant move to cut off all discussions and close the facility because it wants the hospice to provide MAiD (Medical Assistance in Dying) at every facility. The Irene Thomas Hospice is dedicated to allowing patients access to expert symptom management for physical, emotional and spiritual distress. It provides comfort, meaning dignity and hope as one dies a natural death.
Angelina Ireland, President of the Delta Hospice, said the Fraser Health Authority and the British Columbia Minister of Health abruptly cancelled the Hospice’s contract on Tuesday without even acknowledging or responding to the hospice’s offer to a reduced level of government financing of the facility by $750,000 per year in order to meet the 50% funding level for exemption from providing MAiD.
“The actions of the Ministry reveal that the issue of MAiD vs. palliative care is an agenda-driven policy rather than one that ensures access to skilled and compassionate palliative care for eligible patients in distress, and their families,” she said. “And it’s all about dollars. It is easier and cheaper for the government to provide euthanasia rather than continue with palliative care. Basically, they are saying that no palliative care facility in BC has a right to exist unless it also provides euthanasia.”
Faced with the government’s decision and refusal to consider other options such as decreased provincial funding, Ms. Ireland said the hospice will look at all of its legal and other options to continue to exist and serve patients and families in their final days, as they have always done.
The decision is particularly baffling, she said, since access to MAiD for those who request it is available at many locations in the lower mainland, including Delta Hospital right next door to the hospice. That, in her mind, reinforces the view that this is not about patients or families, but rather about a social policy agenda.
“MAiD is a separate public health care stream, distinct and apart from 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.”
“Palliative care physicians and nurses believe in the philosophy of specialty palliative care and practice as defined by the World Health Organization (WHO), which maintains that palliative care provides relief from pain and other distressing symptoms and which affirms life and regards death as a normal process. At no point does WHO include euthanasia as an aspect of palliative care!”
Forced closure of the facility ignores the fact that this is a privately owned hospice built on land leased from the government, employs more than fifty people and has contributed significantly to BC’s public health care system.
“This is an invasion of the historic medical discipline of palliative care. The Canadian model is respected around the world. The government and the health authority are running roughshod over that principle and reputation.”
Ms. Ireland expressed hope that “even at this late date” Fraser Health Authority and the BC Ministry of Health will come to the table and discuss the issues, including the financial offer. “Our deepest concern is with those patients and families who have entrusted their final days to us. We want to make sure those days are filled with comfort and peace. That is still our goal.”
The Ministry and the Authority have both publicly stated they plan to take control of the premises currently occupied by the Hospice. The Delta Hospice Society built the Irene Thomas Hospice without taxpayer funds, at the cost of approximately $9,000,000. The Society has operated the Irene Thomas Hospice for 10 years, providing more than 700,000 hours of volunteer labour and $30 million to the public health care system. For the government to step in and seize this private property is “a scandalous appropriation of private assets,” said Ireland.
On Saturday April 4, a Rally for Delta Hospice will be held in front of the
Legislative Buildings at noon. Speakers include Dr. Margaret Cottle (palliative care physician) and Dr. Will Johnston (family physician and obstetrician) along with MP Tamara Jansen and Alex Schadenberg of the Euthanasia Prevention Coalition.
For further information, contact:
Angelina Ireland. President Delta Hospice